Wayne Barnes insists ‘vile’ social media abuse is getting WORSE in sport – as the recently-retired referee opens up on the ‘hateful’ messages and death threats he and his family have received since the Rugby World Cup final
- Wayne Barnes retired as a referee last week and has opened up on online abuse
- He officiated the Rugby World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand
- Barnes has been the target of ‘hateful and violent’ abuse since last month’s final
Wayne Barnes has described the social media abuse aimed at him and his family as ‘vile’ and said the problem is getting worse in sport after confirming his retirement from rugby.
Barnes was the referee in charge of last month’s World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand and confirmed he was stepping away from the sport last week.
His wife Polly revealed Barnes received death threats while at the tournament in France and has made clear in the past that such abuse has happened on numerous occasions.
‘Social media is getting worse and it’s the sad thing about the sport at the moment. It has not been a one-off,’ Barnes told the BBC. ‘Threats of sexual violence. Threats of saying we know where you live. It crosses that line.
‘The bit I’ve always struggled with and will continue to struggle with is when that abuse comes to my family.’
Wayne Barnes has described the social media abuse aimed at him and his family as ‘vile’
Barnes refereed last month’s World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand and has since been the target of ‘vile’ abuse after sending off All Blacks star Sam Cane (not pictured)
His wife Polly revealed Barnes had received death threats while at the tournament in France
The last of Barnes’ record 111 Tests saw him send off All Blacks captain Sam Cane in the Paris final. Trolls saw it as another excuse to send cruel messages.
World Rugby has said it is doing everything in its power to protect its referees from online abuse.
Barnes has called for greater action from governments and social media companies to put a stop to it.
‘I’m on social media for numerous reasons. One is to promote the charitable work I do and to also promote officiating, to explain what a difficult job it is, and to humanise it,’ he said.
‘I make that choice and with that choice comes the ability for people to send messages of hate and violence.
‘If you’re a fan at your local rugby club and you’re sending vile messages to people’s families and making threats, why should you be able to be involved in the rugby family?
Announcing his retirement, the 44-year-old said he was stepping away from rugby last week
A post shared by Wayne Barnes (@waynebarnesref)
Barnes is the most-capped referee in international rugby history. He also officiated 10 Gallagher Premiership finals and three European Champions Cup deciders during his career
‘I want prosecuting agencies to consider ways of doing that. I want legislation of what social media sites can do to prevent it and I also want governing bodies to consider what they can do.
‘People don’t see the human side of refereeing. They think we are the man or woman who turn up on a Saturday afternoon who ruin their day.
‘But we are actually human beings with families and kids. People in positions of responsibility have to realise our actions have consequences.
‘You can’t pick up your phone and abuse people. We need to be better.’
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