The 'vile' side of rugby
While rugby has been an effective method to unite the world, especially in the last month, there is also an ugly problem that has made its way to the sports – social media abuse.
One man who has been at the end of the vicious social media attacks is Wayne Barnes.
The English official Barnes has labelled the abuse aimed at him and his family as ‘vile’ and revealed the problem is getting worse in sports.
“It’s a sad thing about the sport at the moment,” the Englishman told the BBC.
“We’re all used to criticism, people saying they disagree with our decisions, that is part of the role.
“But when people make threats of violence against you, against your wife, against your kids, threats of sexual violence, threats of saying we know where you live. That crosses a line and that’s where people should be held to account and also should be punished.”
Barnes was the referee in charge of last month’s World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand, where the Springboks were crowned World Cup champions after a 12-11 win.
The final was his record 111th Test and also his last as he announced his retirement from the game.
Less than a week after announcing his retirement, the 44-year-old has said his aim in his post-refereeing life is to make sure that this issue is taken more seriously and that perpetrators get punished.
Barnes fears that people will not want to be involved in rugby if the reckless behaviour of supporters continues.
“I said that when I retired, the one thing I want to do is make sure that it [social media abuse] is taken more seriously,” Barnes said.
“That people are held to account more.
“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’re the man or woman who turns up on a Saturday afternoon and ruin their sport, ruin their day. But we’re actually human beings.
“You’re going to think about whether you want to be involved in high profile sport, whether that’s as a referee or as a player if you’re going to get this venom and this criticism week in, week out.
“People will ask themselves why. Why do I do this? And if it becomes the norm, then more and more people will do it. That’s why we need to start saying ‘This isn’t the norm, this isn’t acceptable.’”