Experienced referee Tom Foley has announced that he will be stepping away from international rugby after receiving a “torrent of abuse and criticism” after the Rugby World Cup final.
Foley was the television match official (TMO) in an all-English officiating team in Paris as South Africa pipped New Zealand to secure back-to-back World Cup crowns.
The veteran official, who has refereed more than 100 Premiership games, subsequently revealed that he had been sent death threats in the wake of the tournament. Foley even had to warn the school his children attend after they were targeted on social media.
He will continue to be involved in club rugby.
“Having reached the pinnacle in officiating at the Rugby World Cup Final, now feels the right time to take a break from the international game,” Foley explained. “Over the course of 13 years, I have been fortunate to officiate alongside many dedicated professionals and be involved in some of the greatest games in international rugby.
“However, the pressure and scrutiny I came under after the Rugby World Cup Final, along with a torrent of criticism and abuse online, has helped to reaffirm that this is the right decision for me at this point in my life.
“While it’s a privilege to be at the heart of some of the sport’s most iconic moments, the increasing levels of vitriol, when the demands and expectation are so high, have led me to this moment.
“Working as an international match official takes you away from home for extended periods, and I am looking forward to spending more time at home with my young children. I am very grateful to my family for their support during my career; without them none of it would have been possible.”
Foley made his international debut in 2016 and was involved in eight games at this year’s World Cup.
The abuse and criticism that individuals involved in rugby face has been a prominent topic since the conclusion of the tournament, with Owen Farrell last week announcing that he would miss the Six Nations to “prioritise his mental well-being”.
Barnes, meanwhile, called for social media companies to do more to try and stamp out online abuse.
“I would like to thank Tom for his outstanding contribution to international officiating,” Bill Sweeney, the chief executive of England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU), said. “Tom has officiated in 48 games internationally and is considered one of the best Television Match Officials globally.
“The abuse he has suffered since the Rugby World Cup Final, along with other officials involved in that game, is totally unacceptable and no one should be treated in this way, doing their job for the sport they are so committed to and passionate about.
“We will do everything possible to help guard against the abuse aimed at match officials and players and would urge everyone in our game to consider the role they can play in upholding rugby values.”