Now a research project at Leicester University is trying to find if there is any truth in the old saying and if class barriers still divide supporters of the rival sports.
Sociologists, funded by Premier Rugby, the body that governs the rugby premiership in England, have sent questionnaires to thousands of supporters at the 12 top Rugby Union clubs.
From the 10,000 replies so far, they hope to find out the backgrounds, income, ages and occupations of typical rugby supporters, how far fans are prepared to travel, and if rugby support is strongest in towns or countryside.
The results will be compared with a football fans study made a few years ago.John Williams, a sociologist at the university's Sir Norman Chester centre for football research, said: "There's a long-standing argument about the differences between rugby and football fans and it is often put down as a class issue."For the first time, researchers will be able to say with some assurance exactly how and why football and rugby fans differ."
The study may also explain why football appears to attract more violent supporters than rugby.Mr Williams's previous research found that soccer was no longer the working man's game. Nearly a third of Chelsea season ticket holders surveyed had incomes of at least #30,000 a year while 28 per cent of Leeds, Coventry and Manchester United season ticket holders earned the same amount.
The earlier survey also found that nearly 98 per cent of fans described themselves as "white British" and that, even in cities with a large black and Asian population, supporters from ethnic minorities were under-represented.
Once the rugby study is completed in the spring, he plans to investigate cricket supporters.
However, outside of southern England, the class distinctions are blurred. Rugby Union took off among the mining communities of Wales while Rugby League, the professional game, attracted popular support in the North.
(Report courtesy of David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent, Daily Telegraph).