9 Apr 2024

Rugby fan in court for abusing World Cup referee

3:19 pm on 9 April 2024
Rugby World Cup

The Webb Ellis Trophy which is awarded to the winner of the men's Rugby World Cup. Photo: RWC

A rugby fan has appeared in court in Australia charged with abusing a match official on social media during a World Cup match last year in a decision welcomed by the game's global governing body.

New Zealand-born Aaron Isaia pleaded guilty to the charge in a Brisbane court on Monday.

The 22-year-old avoided a conviction was handed a $1000 good behaviour bond for 12 months.

Isaia aimed the abuse at Irish Television Match Official (TMO) Brian MacNeice and his family during England's tight 18-17 pool stage win over Samoa in Lille in October.

"World Rugby welcomes this landmark outcome," World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said in a statement.

"The vile and toxic abuse is an all too common occurrence for many sports men and women and public figures, and we hope that this sends a very strong message to online trolls that such behaviour is totally unacceptable."

Chief Executive Officer of World Rugby organisation Alan Gilpin attends a press conference at New National Stadium in Tokyo on February 3, 2023. (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP)

World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin. Photo: AFP / Yuichi Yamazaki

World Rugby struck a partnership with information services company Signify before the World Cup to monitor social media abuse of officials and players during the tournament.

Signify reported 1600 social media accounts to their platforms for breach of community guidelines during the World Cup.

In January, World Rugby said that one person in Australia had been charged with online abuse and cases in other jurisdictions were pending as a result of the monitoring.

"We are delighted to be extending our relationship with Signify Group to tackle online abuse in our sport," Gilpin added.

"In addition to the support provided to our match officials, the partnership has enabled us to focus on the insights that help us better understand the triggers, tactics and threats and how best to mitigate them."