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World Cup final TV ref quits over online abuse


ENGLISH referee Tom Foley has become the latest rugby official to step away from the elite game citing the impact of social media threats and abuse. Foley was the TV match official for this year’s World Cup final between New Zealand and South Africa. He and his young family received death threats after the game. Foley’s fellow referee Wayne Barnes was the man in the middle for the Paris final and retired after the match after receiving vitriol online which targeted him and his family. England captain Owen Farrell last week also stepped away from international rugby to protect his and his family’s mental health after suffering abuse. ‘Having reached the pinnacle in officiating at the World Cup final, now feels the right time to take a break from the international game,’ Foley said. ‘Over 13 years, I have been fortunate to be involved in some of the greatest games. 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. The increasing levels of vitriol, when the demands and expectation are so high, have led me to this moment.’

Foley, 38, will continue to referee in the Premiership. His decision to quit international rugby serves to reinforce the belief that the game has a serious problem it is not dealing with. Foley, from Somerset, had to warn his children’s school about threats in the wake of South Africa winning the final after the sending-off of New Zealand captain Sam Cane. He received messages which threatened to hunt him down. One also said they hoped Foley would die in a car crash.

Foley has been involved in 217 Premiership games either as a referee or TMO and worked in 48 Tests. The news comes after Farrell, who received abuse during the World Cup and was even booed by his own fans, decided to miss the Six Nations to protect his mental health. And Kyle Sinckler yesterday said he can see other England stars stepping away. The veteran England and Bristol prop said: ‘It’s only the beginning, if you look at the workload players go through, especially the international players. It is a privilege to play for your country but it comes with a lot of responsibility and I think the support system could be a lot better. ‘Professional sport is a pressure cooker, but when you’re playing for England it’s more heightened.’

• GEORGE NORTH is joining French club Provence next summer on a two-year deal. The Wales back, 31, will remain eligible for his country.





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