‘Getting worse’ – Wayne Barnes wants action after Rugby World Cup final death threats

Colin Newboult
Wayne Barnes refereeing the Rugby World Cup final between All Blacks and Springboks.

Wayne Barnes refereeing the Rugby World Cup final between All Blacks and Springboks.

Former Test referee Wayne Barnes hopes that the respective authorities can finally find ways of dealing with trolls who send abuse over social media.

According to his wife, Polly, Barnes was sent death threats following the Rugby World Cup final between the All Blacks and the Springboks.

South Africa claimed a narrow 12-11 victory for their fourth World Cup title, but that close scoreline meant every decision was analysed.

Abuse and retirement

New Zealand supporters sent abusive messages to the 44-year-old following that loss, and he would then announce his retirement from refereeing a few days later.

“When people make threats against your wife and kids, they should be held to account and punished,” Barnes told BBC Sport.

“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?

“The bit I’ve always struggled with and will continue to struggle with is when that abuse comes to my family.

“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.”

Following his retirement, Barnes is hoping to support the next generation of referees, who may be going through the same problems.

He is aiming to tackle online threats against match officials as they seek to at least reduce the number of horrific messages they receive.

Not a one-off

“Threats of sexual violence, threats of saying we know where you live. It crosses that line,” Barnes added.

“Social media is getting worse, and it’s the sad thing about the sport at the moment. It has not been a one-off.

“I’m on social media for numerous reasons. One is to promote the charitable work I do and to also promote officiating and to explain what a difficult job it is and to humanise it.

“I make that choice, and with that choice comes the ability for people to send messages of hate and violence.”

READ MORE: Wayne Barnes almost quit after Rassie Erasmus criticism