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Wayne Barnes powerful interview on abuse reiterates changes are needed

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Wednesday Nov 8, 2023

Rugby World Cup final referee Wayne Barnes has revealed the hideous abuse his family received in the wake of the game’s biggest match.

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Overseeing the clash between South Africa and New Zealand, a clash in which the Springboks secured their second successive title and fourth in total. Barnes said that ‘vile’ threats ‘crossed the line’.

“When people make threats against your wife and kids, they should be held to account and punished,” Barnes said.

Speaking to the BBC’s Dan Roan, the 44-year-old said, “Threats of sexual violence, threats of saying we know where you live. It crosses that line.

“Social media is getting worse and it’s the sad thing about the sport at the moment. It has not been a one-off.

“I’m on social media for numerous reasons. One is to promote the charitable work I do and to also promote officiating and to explain what a difficult job it is and to humanise it.

“I make that choice, and with that choice comes the ability for people to send messages of hate and violence.”

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Barnes who started his professional refereeing career in 2005 having initially taken up the whistle as a 21-year-old in 2001.

Speaking about the struggles he has faced with the abuse directed at his family, Barnes said stronger action was needed to deal with threats and abuse.

“If you’re a fan at your local rugby club and you’re sending vile messages to people’s families and making threats, why should you be able to be involved in the rugby family?” he said.

“The bit I’ve always struggled with and will continue to struggle with is when that abuse comes to my family.

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“I want prosecuting agencies to consider ways of doing that, I want legislation of what social media sites can do to prevent it and I also want governing bodies to consider what they can do.”

Stepping away from Rugby, Barnes said he was shaken by the abuse directed at football referee Anthony Taylor.

Taylor who was refereeing the Europa League final between and Sevilla was confronted by Roma manager Jose Mourinho who subsequently received a four match ban.

“It was hugely sad. That could easily have been me and my family after a game.

“I remember watching that video of Anthony and I was devastated because you see the human side.

“People don’t see the human side of refereeing. They think we are the man or woman who turn up on a Saturday afternoon who ruin their day. But we are actually human beings with families and kids and to see Anthony on that day absolutely broke me.

“People in positions of responsibility have to realise our actions have consequences. You can’t pick up your phone and abuse people. We need to be better.”

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