Wayne Barnes has disturbingly revealed that his family felt the full wrath of some fans after France overcame South Africa.
The 43-year-old officiated his 100th Test match in November when France narrowly overcame the Springboks 30-26 in November, but his celebratory occasion would soon turn sour.
Rassie Erasmus, the Springboks’ director of rugby, uploaded a series of video clips on Twitter appearing to illustrate decisions that went against his team post-match. The 50-year-old went on to receive a suspension from World Rugby.
However, English referee Barnes and his family would become subject to online abuse - with the referee even reporting two perpetrators to the police. He revealed the full extent of the abuse for the first time on The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast.
“Criticism on social media quickly becomes abuse,” Barnes said. “That is the world we live in. That is social media. But I make the decision to be a referee, make the decision to be on social media. Polly, my wife, doesn’t make the decision to be a referee.
“On the Saturday night, there started to be some direct abuse at Polly. Then, the following two or three days, there was direct abuse to Polly, threats of sexual violence and threats against the kids. That takes it to a different level. When you’ve done 100 games, you think you can prepare for most things. You can’t prepare for that.
“I don’t mind people criticising my performance and, if they want to abuse me directly, that’s their choice. But that wasn’t just a line that was crossed. You couldn’t even see the line, it had gone that far. It affects you and it affects your family.”
Barnes revealed the abuse on his family led to him considering giving up his job at one point, but he opted to continue. “I sacrifice, but it’s a family sacrifice and you do think, ‘I’ve got this other decent job to go to. I’m a partner at a law firm and they’re keen for me to come back full-time’,” he told the podcast. “Of course you question it, and that’s a constant conversation you have with your family.”
When asked if he believed Erasmus' actions online had played a part, Barnes said: “I don’t know the answer to that. What I would say is that if people see people in positions who are meant to uphold the values of our game openly criticising referees then it allows others to say, ‘People in positions of power can criticise, why can’t I?’”
The official harbours ambitions of refereeing a next year’s World Cup, but is aware of the fact there is no guarantee he will be selected.
“Selection is something you can’t guarantee,” he began before being asked: “Would you like to be selected for France 2023?”, to which he replied: “Yeah, I’d love to be.”