Rugby World Cup final TMO steps back from Test match officiating after ‘torrent of online abuse’

Colin Newboult
Rugby World Cup final TMO Tom Foley refereeing in the Premiership.

Rugby World Cup final TMO Tom Foley refereeing in the Premiership.

Tom Foley, who was the television match official (TMO) for the Rugby World Cup final, has revealed that he is taking a break from the international game.

Led by Wayne Barnes, a team of all-English officials took charge of the showpiece event between South Africa and New Zealand.

The Springboks would claim the Webb Ellis Cup with a narrow 12-11 victory in a game which saw four yellow cards.

Foley was a busy man during the clash and was forced to intervene on several occasions.

Threats

Although most agreed that he and the on-field officials had a good game, getting the majority of the calls right, they received plenty of abuse from All Blacks fans.

It was revealed that Barnes received death threats while Foley also confirmed recently that he was subjected to abuse.

As a result, he has decided to step back from international rugby, but the World Cup final TMO will continue to referee in the Premiership.

“Having reached the pinnacle in officiating at the World Cup final, now feels the right time to take a break from the international game,” he said in a statement.

“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 World Cup final, along with a torrent of criticism and abuse online, has helped to reaffirm this is the right decision for me at this point.

“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.”

After a lengthy stint in France for the World Cup, which took him away from his family, it also gives Foley an opportunity to spend more time with them.

“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,” he added.

“I am very grateful to my family for their support during my career. Without them none of it would have been possible.”

RFU’s statement

Foley has received the support of the Rugby Football Union, who have backed the match official and stated that they are looking to clamp down on online abuse.

“I would like to thank Tom for his outstanding contribution to international officiating,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said.

“Tom is considered one of the best television match officials globally.

“The abuse he has suffered since the World Cup final, along with other officials involved in that game, is totally unacceptable and no-one should be treated in this way for 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.

“Although Tom steps back from Test officiating, we are pleased the sport will continue to benefit from his extensive experience domestically.”

READ MORE: ‘This cannot continue’ – Ex-All Blacks boss Steve Hansen blasts ‘time-consuming’ officiating as he calls for change