Tom Foley: "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. The increasing levels of vitriol have led me to this moment"
Monday 4 December 2023 14:22, UK
Tom Foley, TMO during the 2023 Rugby World Cup final, has decided to step back from Test officiating due to the "torrent of criticism and abuse online" and "increasing levels of vitriol".
Foley was part of an all-English officiating team for October's World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand at the Stade de France in Paris, which the Springboks won 12-11, with Wayne Barnes the referee and Karl Dickson and Matthew Carley assistants.
Barnes has since retired having officiated at a fifth World Cup and his first final, but World Rugby has revealed it received more than 2,000 direct threats against the officials in the weeks after the game in Paris.
Foley revealed he has received death threats to him and his family, forcing him to speak to and warn his children's school. He told the BBC threats sent included vows to hunt him down and hopes he would die in a car crash.
On Monday, Foley decided to call time on his international refereeing, but will continue to officiate at club level in the Premiership.
Foley's first experience at international level came in November 2016, and he's officiated in 48 Tests in total, 16 in the Six Nations and eight in the Rugby World Cup this year.
"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 said. "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."
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO, added: "I would like to thank Tom for his outstanding contribution to international officiating. Tom has officiated in 48 games internationally and is considered one of the best Television Match Officials globally.
"The abuse he 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."