Englishman Tom Foley has announced his decision to withdraw from international match officiating, attributing online abuse as a primary factor.
Foley, who served as the TMO at the 2023 Rugby World Cup final, expressed his feelings in a statement, stating: “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 cited the intense pressure and scrutiny he faced after the final, coupled with online criticism and abuse, as influential in his choice.
His announcement comes amid a growing concern over the impact of online abuse on sports officials.
He emphasised that the ‘increasing levels of vitriol’ led him to this decision after 13 years of international refereeing. Wayne Barnes, the match referee in the same final, retired soon after the final and also cited similar abuse.
“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,” Foley added.
Rugby Football Union CEO Bill Sweeney commended Foley’s contribution to international officiating and condemned the unacceptable abuse.
Foley, who began refereeing in 2010 and officiated in 48 Tests since 2016, will continue domestic refereeing in the English Premiership.
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