Referee forced to step away following Rugby World Cup final TMO abuse

Stepping away.

Tom Foley, a hugely respected match official both domestically and as part of the International Match Officials group, has decided to step away from international match officiating for the foreseeable future.

Foley recently revealed that he and his family were the subject of horrific abuse online, including death threats and messages to his children’s school following his role as Television Match Official (TMO) for the Rugby World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand.

He will continue to officiate in the Gallagher Premiership.

Tom began refereeing in 2010 in the National Leagues and has been involved in 217 games in the Premiership, including 127 as a referee and 67 as TMO; three of these were Premiership Finals. He has also officiated at four Champions Cup Finals in 2018, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

His first experience at international level came in November 2016 in a match involving Romania and Tonga and he’s officiated in 48 Tests in total, 16 in the Six Nations and eight in the Rugby World Cup this year.

Tom Foley said:

“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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