Referee Tom Foley has been forced to step away from the international game following abuse and genuine threats he has received online since officiating at the recent World Cup final. On another dark day for the sport, Foley has released a statement explaining his decision.
Foley said: “Having reached the pinnacle in officiating at the Rugby 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 Rugby World Cup Final, along with a torrent of criticism and abuse online, has helped to reaffirm that this is the right decision for me at this point in my life. 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.
“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. I am very grateful to my family for their support during my career; without them none of it would have been possible.”
CEO of the Rugby Football Union, Bill Sweeney, said: “I would like to thank Tom for his outstanding contribution to international officiating. Tom has officiated in 48 games internationally and is considered one of the best Television Match Officials globally.
“The abuse he has suffered since the Rugby World Cup Final, along with other officials involved in that game, is totally unacceptable and no one should be treated in this way, 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 that he will remain part of the RFU Professional Game Match Officials Group, and that the sport will continue to benefit from his extensive experience domestically.”
Although Foley is stepping away from the limelight of international rugby, he will continue to referee in the English Premiership.