This time last month, referee Tom Foley was about to experience the pinnacle of his officiating career as he took to the TMO box to oversee the World Cup final.
He was joined in the stadium by over 80,000 rugby fans eager to see the two greatest ever rugby nations compete for the ultimate prize.
The occasion would eventually mark the Springboks as winners for the fourth time in their history; a remarkable achievement for a country who were famously excluded from the first two editions of the tournament – making their record a win every two tournaments.
The celebrations come the final whistle were that of pure ecstasy from Springbok fans, with many emitting real tears in the seats of the Paris stadium. The Stade de France was awash with deep green as charismatic captain Siya Kolisi lifted the covered trophy high into the brisk Paris night.
These scenes should have been the key memories left in the minds of all involved; fans, players and officials alike. Unfortunately for some, their experience has been somewhat marred since that evening.
TMO Tom Foley, however, sadly received a series of death threats towards himself and his young family in the days and weeks that followed. These included promises to hunt him down, and wishes that involve serious harm in car crashes and otherwise.
World Rugby had noted more than 2000 direct threats against match officials over the World Cup period, with Foley claiming to have never experienced anything quite like this in the past.
Speaking about the social media hate the referees have experienced, Foley said:
“You can’t hide behind this faceless façade. It’s cowardice. It’s complete cowardice.
“They wouldn’t say it to you in the street. So why do they feel that they can say it online?”
One fan, posting on the Rugbydump community group, said: “Just watched the Foley interview about the threats he and his family have received following the RWC final. Yes we all love our game, yes we all love our respective countries and clubs, but there is absolutely no reason to threaten any official or player and their families with physical harm or wish worse on them. It’s a sport and mistakes are made by both officials and players alike.”
We all stand by the above words.