Author JK Rowling has revealed she became a rugby fan after marrying a Scot who introduced her to the game.
The Harry Potter writer confessed she converted to the sport after tying the knot with doctor Neil Murray and being taken to watch a match.
Rowling, whose books have sold in millions and inspired a series of huge hit films about the teenage boy wizard, admitted she “accidentally” ended up enjoying the sport, adding that the atmosphere during matches was much less intimidating than a football ground.
She also said that rugby in Scotland appeared to be more of a “farmer’s” game than a sport for public schoolboys.
Speaking on today’s Women’s Hour on Radio 4, which she is guest editing, the 48-year-old said: “I grew up in a house where my father and male relatives were all football supporters and I was used to watching football on TV.
“It’s not until I married a Scot that I was taken, not entirely willingly, to the rugby. And then I accidentally ended up enjoying the rugby. So there is hope for you. You can definitely convert.”
The author, who was raised in England but now lives in Scotland, said she was “staggered” by how safe she felt at rugby matches.
“I was very taken aback by the difference in a rugby crowd and a football crowd. As a woman, being at the rugby is quite a welcoming place. Whereas I can remember going to football matches in London and feeling quite intimidated. So that was obviously a welcome change.”
The mother-of-three added: “What is happening on the (rugby) pitch is horrible and violent and dreadful but meanwhile you are sitting with a lot of people who will happily buy you half a pint and a pie and chat away to you even if they are supporting the opposition – and I found that rather enjoyable.”
Rowling said rugby tended to be “much less of a class thing” in Scotland.
She said: “Rugby in Scotland was a farmer’s game, a farm lad’s game more than a public school boy’s game, I would say.”
She also contrasted the attitude of rugby players with that of footballers.
“[Rugby players] don’t dive. I think that is rather a nice difference between rugby and football. You do start to respect them for literally soldiering on when they are in terrible pain. It’s quite the reverse of football.”
Rowling also described the “guilt and worry and anxiety” brought on by her mother’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. She talked about the effect of the illness which killed her mother at age 45.
She said: “I was a teenager, but yes, it had the most enormous impact on our family life.
“She had been showing symptoms for a few years and didn’t know what they were. So by the time she was diagnosed, her health was deteriorating, so it wasn’t just the spectre of the unknown, it was dealing with the daily reality of somebody who’s starting not to be able to walk as well as they had, and for such an active person that was a real privation.”
Asked what her mother would have made of her success, Rowling said: “My mother was a passionate reader, and she would have been excited whatever I did, if I succeeded at anything, but particularly to be a writer, she would have considered to be a very valuable thing.”