'Can’t continue this way': Top Ref has had enough of online trolls
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Referee Luke Pearce has said that the abuse directed at referees online ‘can’t continue this way,’ or he fears his colleagues will leave the job.
Officials have been in the spotlight over this international window due to a series of cards that have, or more controversially have not, been shown, and Pearce has said that there is only so much trolling people can take.
Joining Jim Hamilton on The Rugby Pod this week, the Premiership referee, who has taken charge of Romania versus Italy and Canada versus Spain this summer, discussed the criticism and online abuse those in his profession face and how they deal with it, admitting he does get “consumed by it from time to time.”
The pair also questioned whether a dialogue should be opened between referees and the public after matches, where they are given the opportunity to explain their decisions in the face of criticism they are receiving.
“I do wonder sometimes though, and I don’t know why, but referees are always the centre of attention at everything,” Pearce said.
“Referees are always in that spotlight and it’s the nature of the job to have thick skin, so we can’t make this an over-sensitive job either, but how we then communicate to the wider world to explain what we’re doing is working progress really.
“Barnesy [Wayne Barnes] does a really good job and a few of us have been on BT to try and give the referee’s side of things but we’re a close-knit team and it becomes a little bit tricky than when we’re critiquing one of our mate’s performance in the public domain. Because people want to hear ‘he or she got that right or wrong,’ that’s what they want, they want the juicy story to say good or bad.
” But sometimes we can’t give that. We don’t want to be sat on the fence with answers, but we just want to quote what the law book says in specific scenarios and why a referee may have interpreted it that way.
“I don’t think we’re quite there yet. It’s something that clearly will have to change in the next few years. Because you’ve only got to look on social media this weekend- it can’t continue this way of continually slamming people after every single fixture because people are just going to give up.
“People will just walk away from it, is my fear. You’ve got to have thick skin, of course, you have, but there’s only so much dealing with real s**t that you can deal with for however many years you are in this job for.”
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Pearce had already said that referees need to be prepared for abuse if they chose to use social media, but still called out the attacks on his colleague Karl Dickson online following his performance in the first Test between the All Blacks and Ireland this year.
“If you want to be on [social media], you’ve got to brace yourself for the stuff that comes your way as well,” he said.
“I think the balance that we’re struggling with in refereeing at the moment is having a profile, doing this stuff, making people realise that we’re decent people, accessible and we’re normal. We’re normal human beings that are just trying to do the best job that we can.
“You take Karl’s example, there’s no reason why he should get a load of s**t from that New Zealand vs Ireland game. He’s good enough, he’s doing a tier-one game between two of the biggest countries in the world.”
By Josh Raisey, Rugbypass