- Wayne Barnes quit as a referee last week and has opened up to 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 against him and his family as ‘despicable’ and said the problem in the sport is getting worse after he confirmed his retirement from rugby.
Barnes was the referee in charge of the World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand last month and confirmed last week that he would be leaving the sport.
His wife Polly revealed that Barnes received death threats during the tournament in France and has made it clear in the past that such abuse has occurred on numerous occasions.
“Social media is getting worse and that’s the sad thing about sport right now. It wasn’t a one-off,” Barnes told the BBC. ‘Threats of sexual violence. Threats saying we know where you live. It crosses that line.
“The thing that I have always struggled with and will continue to struggle with is when that abuse happens to my family.”
Wayne Barnes has described the social media abuse against him and his family as ‘despicable’
Barnes refereed the World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand last month and has since been the target of ‘despicable’ abuse after sending off All Blacks star Sam Cane (not pictured)
His wife Polly revealed that Barnes had received death threats during the tournament in France
During the last of Barnes’ record 111 tests, he dismissed 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 more action from governments and social media companies to put an end to it.
‘I’m on social media for different reasons. “One is to promote the charity work I do and promote civil service, to explain what a difficult job it is, and to make it more human,” he said.
‘I make that choice and with that choice comes the opportunity for people to send messages of hate and violence.
‘If you’re a fan of your local rugby club and you’re sending nasty messages to people’s families and making threats, why should you be able to be involved in the rugby family?
Announcing his retirement last week, the 44-year-old said he was retiring from rugby
Barnes is the most capped referee in international rugby history. He also officiated ten Gallagher Premiership finals and three European Champions Cup deciders during his career
‘I want prosecutors to think about ways to do that. I want legislation on what social media sites can do to prevent this, 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 comes along on a Saturday afternoon and ruins their day.
‘But we are actually people with families and children. People in positions of responsibility must realize that our actions have consequences.
“You can’t pick up your phone and abuse people. We have to be better.’