Rugby World Cup official claims he's 'taking a break' from officiating

Rugby World Cup final official, 38, reveals he’s ‘taking a break’ from officiating – as he claims ‘criticism’ and ‘abuse online’ are his reasons for stepping away from the sport

  • Tom Foley has revealed he will immediately ‘take a break’ from rugby officiating 
  • The referee claimed that he had received ‘a torrent of criticism and abuse online’

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 television 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 also receiving unacceptable 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.

Foley said: ‘Having reached the pinnacle in officiating at the World Cup final, now feels the right time to take a break from the international game.

‘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.

English referee Tom Foley has become the latest rugby official to step away from the elite game

Foley was the TV match official for the World Cup final between New Zealand and South Africa

Mail Sport has launched a campaign to stop the abuse of referees at all levels of the game

‘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.’ Foley will continue to referee in England’s main domestic competition the Gallagher Premiership.

But his decision to quit international rugby because of the hatred he has received only serves to reinforce the belief 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 including in the Six Nations and at World Cups.

‘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 said.

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

Foley has been involved in 217 Premiership games either as a referee or TMO

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: ‘I would like to thank Tom for his outstanding contribution to international officiating.

‘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.’

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