Online Attacks on Rugby Referee and Family Raise Concerns Over Sports Officiating

Online Attacks on Rugby Referee and Family Raise Concerns Over Sports Officiating

Rugby World Cup Official Exposes Alarming Abuse and Threats

TMO’s Disturbing Revelation

In the aftermath of the Springboks’ victory over New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup Final, television match official (TMO) Tom Foley has come forward to disclose the disturbing extent of abuse directed at him and his family.

The referee for that pivotal match, Wayne Barnes, has retired, vowing to combat the escalating levels of abuse targeting rugby match officials, particularly through social media.

Abuse Unveiled: The Dark Side of Social Media

Foley, shedding light on the nature of the vitriol he has endured, shared that while most abuse can be dismissed, the threat of doxxing poses a genuine and alarming concern.

In a candid conversation on the Two Locks and a Cox podcast, he revealed the shocking content of the messages received, ranging from direct threats against him, his family, and his children to horrifying statements like, “I hope your family dies in a dreadful car accident.

I’m going to hunt you down and slit your throat.”

Impact on Personal Lives: A Real and Immediate Concern

While Foley acknowledges that much of the abuse comes from anonymous online users, the worry intensifies when these individuals possess enough personal information to turn the threats into a tangible problem.

The concern reached such heights that even Foley’s children’s school received an email.

He emphasized the gravity of the situation, acknowledging that though it represents a small percentage of viewers, the broader issue is the potential deterrence of individuals from taking up refereeing roles, ultimately harming the sport.

Addressing the Issue: World Rugby’s Proactive Measures

Reflecting on the escalating problem, Foley noted that the abuse has worsened in the last year.

However, he commended World Rugby for taking a proactive stance in tackling the issue.

The organization has engaged the services of Signify Group, a company involved in screening and investigating the abusive content.

Foley highlighted that this collaborative effort aims to identify and prosecute those responsible for the threats.

Call for Social Media Accountability

The troubling trend of online abuse has prompted calls for social media companies to implement stricter identification and verification measures.

Foley, echoing a sentiment shared by many, condemned the faceless and cowardly nature of online abuse.

He questioned why individuals feel empowered to make such statements online that they would never express face-to-face, emphasizing the need for accountability in the virtual realm.

The persistent reluctance of social media companies to adopt stringent measures has raised concerns about the potential consequences for the sport and the well-being of those officiating at the highest levels.

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