Referee Andrew Brace has been subject to an appalling tirade of abuse online following his officiating of the Autumn Nations Cup final.
Fans have taken to directly tagging the 32-year-old in their posts on Twitter, and worse still, some have opted to comment on the obituary of his late father.
This is a stark reminder of the dark side of social media, as no person should face abuse of this nature. Moreover, it continues to tarnish the reputation of rugby, which seems to cling to the illusion that it has a higher set of standards than other sports.
England snuck to a sudden death 22-19 win over an inexperienced France at Twickenham, but looked as though they were heading for a humiliating loss in the final minutes of regular time when trailing 19-12.
Eddie Jones’ side managed to score a last gasp try, but there were at least two occasions in the final two minutes where England seemed to have knocked the ball on, but went unnoticed. In fact, Owen Farrell’s fumble at the base of a ruck actually led to a penalty to England, which allowed them to kick to the corner and Luke Cowan-Dickie to score from the ensuing lineout.
Conversely, France’s Sekou Macalou was wrongly adjudged to have knocked the ball on following France’s kick-off for the second half of extra time. England won a penalty from the scrum and were able to relieve the pressure and work their way upfield and eventually earn the match-winning penalty themselves. Had the scrum not been awarded in the first place, England were toiling in their own 22.
While Brace received the brunt of this criticism online, it has been highlighted that the television match official and the touch judges were silent in instances where their voices needed to be heard.
Brace was on the wrong side of the ruck when Farrell knocked the ball on, as he was only moments before when Billy Vunipola appeared to knock the ball on as well. It is understandable that he may have missed them given the melee of bodies in his way, but it is most surprising that his officiating team did not assist him.
Regardless of how aggrieved someone feels after a loss, very few would argue that this is acceptable behaviour, and indeed there are many that have deleted their comments. Social media is a platform which allows people to voice their opinions, but tagging their target in a post or hijacking a personal post of theirs are new depths.
Hundreds of messages, many too unpleasant to publish, were directed at the young referee.
Do you realise you are posting on this man's father's obituary? And yet you have the impetus to say he is damaging the image of rugby? You are a hypocrite.
— Ambitious Longstock (@Ambitiouslong) December 7, 2020
Not the post for this.
— Ian Harries (@LordHarries) December 7, 2020
My grandmother would have been a better referee than you, nice fraud, I hope we won’t see you anymore
— Play Raph (@PlayraphY) December 6, 2020
— Renaud Dejarnac (@Doctorno34) December 7, 2020
@bracey1988 you are a disgrace to the Nation of Rugby. It's a shame that someone like you is allowed to referee at such a high level. France fought a beautiful battle tonight, and you ruined it. Still the winners in every supporter's heart #ENGvFRA
— Obi Wan Cannabis (@igothepower_) December 6, 2020
— Bouissiere Julien (@BouissiereJ) December 7, 2020
— ? ? (@YGUEULEFORT) December 6, 2020
FFS, please to the people commenting. SHOW A LITTLE RESPECT. IT WAS JUST A GAME. I'm French, I'm disappointed by the result of the game. But please: this is THE MAN'S DAD OBITUARY you're shi****g on !
From French respectful fans : please @bracey1988, accept our condolences.
— Masthei64 (@Masthei64) December 6, 2020
Please fellow Frenchmen, I know we are all angry about the performance of Andrew Brace yesterday, but this post is about his dad's obituary. Show respect to that and stop yelling on it as if you were pigs.
— Thomas Cazalis (@Thomas_Caza) December 7, 2020
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