World Cup TMO steps away from Test rugby over abuse
December 4, 2023 11:20 PM
English referee Tom Foley, who received death threats after acting as television match official at the Rugby World Cup final, will step away from officiating Test rugby for the foreseeable future, it was announced Monday.
Foley was TMO for October's final between South Africa and New Zealand in Paris, which the Springboks won 12-11 and the All Blacks had skipper Sam Cane sent off.
The 38-year-old said last month that death threats had been aimed at him and his family since the World Cup, and he had to warn his children's school as a result.
Wayne Barnes, who refereed the final, announced his retirement last month and referenced the online abuse he had faced, while family members were also targeted.
And Foley's decision comes after England captain Owen Farrell chose to take a break from international rugby - he will miss this season's Six Nations - to prioritise his and his family's mental health.
"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," Foley said in a statement released by the Rugby Football Union (RFU).
"While it is 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.
"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."
Foley, who has officiated in 48 Tests, four Champions Cup finals and controlled more than 200 Premiership games, will continue to referee in English rugby's flagship domestic league.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney added: "The abuse Tom 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."