Wayne Barnes blows the whistle on the 'venomous' side of rugby after retiring from reffing
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Rock News

Wayne Barnes blows the whistle on the 'venomous' side of rugby after retiring from reffing

"This isn't acceptable."

Wayne Barnes has retired from reffing, but he’s not kicking back in his post-officiating life.

Nah, he's getting right in the thick of a new game – tackling online abuse head-on.

After blowing the final whistle at South Africa's nail-biting 12-11 victory over the All Blacks during the 2023 World Cup final, Barnes found himself in a digital scrum of sorts. 

The online attacks that followed weren't just disagreements about his calls, they crossed a line into threats against him and his family. 

Now, he's getting stuck into sorting out the ugly side of sports criticism.

In a recent interview with BBC, Barnes explained: "We're all used to criticism, people saying they disagree with our decisions, that's part of the role.”

“But when people make threats of violence against you, against your wife, against your kids, threats of sexual violence, threats of saying we know where you live, that crosses a line. That's where people should be held to account and also should be punished,” he continued.

He wants the issue of online abuse taken more seriously, ‘cause if it’s left unchecked, it could drive keen future referees away from the game.

“You’re going to think about whether you want to be involved in high profile sport, whether that’s as a referee or as a player, if you’re going to get this venom and this criticism week in, week out.”

"People don’t see the human side of refereeing," Barnes explained. 

"They think we’re the man or woman who turns up on a Saturday afternoon and ruins their sport, ruins their day. But we’re actually human beings."

He's not just pointing fingers, Barnes has a game plan. 

He's calling for legal reinforcements, urging prosecuting agencies to step up. 

He said: “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."

 "This isn't acceptable."