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MUST READ: World Rugby ready to prosecute online trolls

Tom Foley, the match official for the Rugby World Cup final and the Television Match Official (TMO), was the most recent to end his career on Monday, citing the online harassment he faced at work as a primary motivator.The 38-year-old claimed last month that since the World Cup, threats of death had been made against him and his family, and as a result, he had to notify his children’s school.In addition to mentioning the abuse he had received online, referee Wayne Barnes, who officiated the October final, announced his retirement last month. His wife also disclosed that they had received death threats.


Foley’s decision follows that of England captain Owen Farrell, who decided to pause playing rugby internationally in order to put his and his family’s mental health first after experiencing burnout and receiving hate mail.

It has brought attention to a serious issue that affects rugby and sport as a whole and that is now irreversible. Given that this may just be the beginning of a wave of players and referees who refuse to put up with being the target of internet trolls, something has to be done.

Springbok player Cobus Reinach also talked about how he was called a cheater and received death threats during the World Cup, which also affected his family.

It appears that World Rugby is now moving decisively to identify and bring these online trolls to justice. The organization is working with data science startup Signify Group, which employs an AI-powered Threat Matrix service to identify online abusers.

“With the help of this program, the authorities are starting to file their first criminal cases, and it appears that we will be able to successfully take action against the most severe forms of abuse in several different jurisdictions,” a spokesperson stated.

“Fair criticism and constructive debate are constants that won’t change. It is not the intention to stifle free speech; rather, it is to shield individuals and their families from unacceptable acts of racial, sexual, and discriminatory behavior, including threats of death.

The spokesperson continued, “People are misinformed if they believe that an alias or anything else they may have on social media protects them.” “A person can be recognized and prosecuted even if they go undercover.

“We hope that prosecutions in several nations will send a strong message that this kind of behavior is not acceptable. We will keep working to safeguard and assist our international match officials and their families by prosecuting those who violate them.”


As it stands, England forward Kyle Sinckler thinks more players should choose to take a hiatus from international play, just like Owen Farrell did.

He told the BBC, “If I’m being honest, this is just the beginning.” The amount of work that athletes, particularly those who play internationally, put in is evident. After spending five months in [World Cup] training, players take a week off before returning to the field every week.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be shocked if more players followed suit. In the end, you kind of have to take the good with the bad as a player.

“The same people that will be saying to you one minute that you are not doing so well, are the same people when it is going well are singing your praises. So it comes part and parcel with the job.


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