Club rugby

Online abuse has come into sharp focus for rugby players and officials. Photo: Archives

Rugby has a major problem that can’t be ignored!

Rugby players and officials are taking a stand against online abuse that is ruining the game and cutting careers short.

Club rugby

Online abuse has come into sharp focus for rugby players and officials. Photo: Archives

On Monday, match official Tom Foley – who served as the Television Match Official (TMO) for the Rugby World Cup final – became the latest person to cut his career short after admitting the online abuse received in the job was a major contributing factor to his decision.

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The 38-year-old said last month that death threats had been aimed at him and his family since the World Cup and that he had to warn his children’s school as a result.

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Wayne Barnes, who refereed October’s final, announced his retirement last month and also referenced the online abuse he had faced, while his wife revealed they had also been victims of death threats.

Rugby is facing a potential crisis

Foley’s decision comes after England captain Owen Farrell chose to take a break from international rugby to prioritise his and his family’s mental health after also facing various forms of vitriol, while also suffering from burnout.

It’s shone a stark spotlight on a major problem in rugby – and sport – and which can no longer be ignored. Something simply has to be done considering that this could be just the start of an avalanche of players and referees who will no longer accept being targeted by online trolls.

Also during the World Cup, Springbok star Cobus Reinach shared how he was called a cheat and received death threats, which also extended to his family, during the World Cup.

The one death threat messages roughly translated to the following: “Dirty son of a bitch, I hope that when you return to Montpellier you get murdered by French people on the ground, gang of thieves easy to win a title by cheating.” The text which include a photo of Reinach junior reads: “Go die.”

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More to follow?

As it is, England prop Kyle Sinckler believes more players could follow in Owen Farrell’s footsteps by opting to take a break from the international game.

“If I’m being honest it’s only the beginning,” he told the BBC. “If you look at the workload the players go through, especially the international players. Guys have been in [World Cup] camp for five months, get a week’s rest, and then come back in and playing week-in and week-out.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to be honest [if more players did the same]…. At the end of the day, as a player you kind of have to take the rough with the smooth.

“The same people that will be saying to you one minute that you are not doing so well, are the same people when it is going well are singing your praises. So it comes part and parcel with the job.

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