Joey Barton claims there would have been 'public executions' had England's footballers behaved like their rugby counterparts at the World Cup.
England's rugby side crashed out of the 2011 World Cup at the quarter-final stage following an abject display against France.
Martin Johnson's squad struggled to find form throughout the tournament and saw their efforts on the field undermined by events off it.
England appeared incapable of steering clear of controversy and were widely condemned for their inability to abide by the rules.
Queens Park Rangers midfielder Barton is no stranger to controversy himself, but feels footballers are given a rough ride when compared to their fellow sporting heroes.
He told the Professional Players Federation national conference on Monday: "If that was an England football team at a World Cup, there would probably have been public executions when they got home.
"'Football's a gentleman's game played by thugs', I hear quite a lot, and, 'rugby's a thug's game played by gentlemen'.
"The minute a footballer steps out of line, I think the media in this country - because of the sums of money they earn and also because of the stigma attached - are really quick to jump on it."
Barton has also taken issue with the standing footballers enjoy in modern society, with it his opinion that it is wrong to hold sports stars up as role models.
He said: "There is a lot of envy about what footballers earn, the astronomical figures. That's not our fault.
"I went from being on £300-a-week playing in a big league to £6,500-a-week.
"No-one taught me how to handle that, no-one taught me how to be a man, I didn't instantly get that wage increase and become a role model.
"I was still the same kid from a working-class council estate.
"It's not right."