Irish referee Joy Neville has spoken out powerfully on the abuse rugby referees continue to receive from fans and competitors.
Neville, who took charge of the 2017 Rugby World Cup final, spoke out after recent abuses on social media by fans, and the heavily publicised antics of South African coach Rassie Erasmus.
Speaking to Rugby World, Neville said that the social media abuse of officials was "dangerous" and encouraged World Rugby to do more to halt it.
Joy Neville speaks out on abuse of rugby referees
The continued lunacy of Rassie Erasmus has brought the treatment of rugby officials into the spotlight once again.
Erasmus has yet again been banned by World Rugby for questioning and attacking match officials through his Twitter account, earning him widespread condemnation from the rugby world - including from within his own country.
Irish referee Joy Neville has spoken out about the issues surrounding the treatment of referees, saying that she did not like the lack of accountability for those who attack referees online:
I don’t like social media, it’s used as a weapon by people and I don’t like the lack of accountability.
I’m nearly 40, I have a great support structure at home but I do worry about young people who don’t have that life experience. I do really think social media is dangerous.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as a group, we know we are there to create a platform for teams to play so it’s important for us to be physically and mentally in the best shape.
So pressure comes internally and externally. You have to have mental strength to filter negative stuff.
Just last year, Joy Neville was subjected to abuse online after she made a crucial TMO decision in the decisive Six Nations game between England and France.
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) March 13, 2021
Her decision to award a try to England ultimately cost France the Grand Slam, and was hailed as "brave" by Ronan O'Gara in the Virgin Media studio at the time.
However, the incident brought with it awful abuse for Neville, who said that details of her personal life were even attacked and detailed by those who came for her on social media.
Speaking to the Independent at the time in 2021, Neville said:
People attacked my sexuality, my gender, my family and my role as an official. The language was very abusive which included threats in some cases.
Sometimes, I wonder how those individuals would react or feel if the same was said about their daughter or son.
It’s not really upsetting because I knew soon after that the right decision was made but it would be a completely different circumstance for me if I had made the wrong decision.
And that’s what I find difficult. It would have made it 100 times worse.
The treatment of referees in rugby is an ongoing and worsening issue, and Joy Neville's decision to speak out about it can only be commended.