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Wayne Barnes weighs in on resignation of ex-colleague Tom Foley after online abuse

By Josh Raisey
Referee Wayne Barnes (R) and his assistants Karl Dickson (C) and Matthew Carley look on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Gold Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Recently retired referee Wayne Barnes has said “rugby has lost one of its best officials” after his former colleague Tom Foley announced that he will step down from officiating international matches following the abuse he received online in the aftermath of the World Cup final.


Barnes took charge of South Africa’s World Cup final victory over the All Blacks at the Stade de France in October, his 111th and final Test, and was supported by television match official Foley and assistant referees Karl Dickson and Matthew Carley. He retired shortly after the final, and has since revealed the extent of the abuse that he received after the match.

That abuse was not solely reserved for Barnes though, as Foley cited the “torrent of criticism and abuse online” as a leading factor in his decision to step down from international matches.

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After Foley’s decision was announced, Barnes took to X on Tuesday lamenting the events of the past few weeks and highlighting where rugby is going wrong currently.

Officials are of course not the only figures that have been subjected to abuse, as last week England captain Owen Farrell announced that he will not take part in the upcoming Six Nations after being the victim of abuse from (staggeringly) his own fans.

“There is so much wrong with society, wrong with our game and wrong with so called fans if Tom Foley, who’s significantly developed and improved the role of a TMO, steps down from international rugby,” the 44-year-old wrote.

“Rugby has lost one of its best officials.

“People need a hard look at themselves.”


International rugby’s loss is the Gallagher Premiership’s gain though, as Foley confirmed that he will now solely focus on domestic rugby.

Foley said in an RFU statement on Monday: “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. Over the course of 13 years, I have been fortunate to officiate alongside many dedicated professionals and be involved in some of the greatest games in international rugby.

“However, 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. While it’s 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.

“Working as an international match official takes you away from home for extended periods, and I am looking forward to spending more time at home with my young children. I am very grateful to my family for their support during my career; without them none of it would have been possible.”




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WayneBaenesIsAMutt 40 days ago

Hope both you dirty mutts get cancer and die

David 217 days ago

Foley’s Folly is inexplicable. But whether it was a knowing and deliberate or a very bad decision is hardly the issue. What matters is that, for whatever reason, he made a glaringly wrong decision that cost the All Blacks the World Cup they deserved.

Sam 218 days ago

What sickens me is the fact that nearly every comment on here legitimises the abuse and the level of that abuse that was recieved. How can it be ever considered right that they received death threats which included their families? It can’t be. I think it’s disgusting that officials are targeted like this and others, yes you making the comments on here i’m talking to you, think that it’s the officials faults for being to soft and sensitive and shiuodn’t do the job in the first place if they’re going to feel anything that you wouldn’t feel. If someone came up to you in the street and threatened your kids, would you just stand there and take it? No you wouldn’t so why should they? And why should they have to? It's not right that our great sport is being tarnished by the disgusting behaviour of the fans, this is not football. Yes things at the WR need to change but threatening kids is not the way to do it.

Red and White Dynamight 218 days ago

Have a word with The Waterboy, he legitimised ref abuse when he leaked non-leaked his myopic collection of video whinges and then ignored the ban he copped with a cheat of his own.

Bob Marler 219 days ago

only one team is supposed to win the RWC. Anyone else who wins it must either be cheats. Or someone else cheated the losing team.

That is the only sensible answer to this dilemma.

Bob Marler 219 days ago

I think the solution to the problem is anything that makes the non-Bok fans happy.

Let’s just do whatever they want us to do.

Stop this whingeing and whining and threatening to kill people because of a rugby game.

Bob Marler 219 days ago

If half these comments are to be believed…

I for one am pleased that corrupt officiating has become such a big part of the game.

It gives the lunatic fringe fanbase reason to get more involved in the game.

Growing the game’s fanbase!

In fact, what else would we possibly talk about without it!?


Bob Marler 219 days ago


What happened? What I miss?

Jon 219 days ago

Refs need a thicker skin or they can delete their FB accounts

Nigel 219 days ago

Abuse of officials by keyboard warriors and clowns like Erasmus is inexcusable but the bottom line is that the WR mandated officials that have protected and favored SA for the past 3 decades need to go. Imo the current WR structure needs to be completely overhauled and replaced with sensible individuals that respect and enjoy the game irrespective of whether they achieve a farcical global representation. Those of us that love and played the game at whatever level just ask for neutral, unbiased officiating. Something that the IRB nor WR were/have been able to achieve. Bury the pathetic political agendas that demand a team from Africa (however weak they are) be elevated to competitive status by bias and favoritism and let us true rugby lovers enjoy the game.

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