World Cup final referee Wayne Barnes has exposed the “abhorrent” social media abuse directed at him and his family, deeming it a blatant violation of decency.
Barnes, who recently hung up his whistle just days after officiating South Africa’s dramatic 12-11 victory over New Zealand in the final showdown in the city of light, has voiced his demand for those responsible to face the consequences.
This disheartening episode took an even darker turn when Barnes’s wife, Polly, disclosed that her husband had been subjected to death threats in the aftermath of the intense final clash.
Barnes’ retirement, tainted by the vile abuse he and his loved ones endured, underscores the urgent need for action against online harassment in the world of sports.
“When people make threats against your wife and kids, they should be held to account and punished,” Barnes 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.”
NIGEL OWENS DREAM XV:
Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)
Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.
“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.
“It’s a toss of a coin for me… and it’s come down in Folau’s favour.”
Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.
“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.
“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”
Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.
“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”
Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)
Owens said: “He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.
“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”
Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)
Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.
“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.
“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”