Referee quits after online abuse

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Nelson sporting clubs are being warned about what they post on social media after a Nelson football referee quit the game as a result of online abuse.

The referee sent a Richmond Athletic player off in a first division game earlier this month for alleged dangerous play. He rescinded the red card on the Monday following the game, meaning the player would not be suspended for the next game.

But the Richmond club then took to its official Facebook page, accusing the region’s referees of conspiring to cheat. Those posts attracted other comments from club members and as a result the referee quit the game.

The comments have since been removed and the club has apologised.

Nelson Bays Football general manager Clive Beaumont says no referee should be treated in such a way that he feels like he can’t referee anymore and clubs may be fined in the future.

“Clubs need to be extremely careful about whether they want the game to be run properly in a small district like Nelson, where being harassed like this online can affect things in a referee’s life outside of football.”

Tasman Rugby Union referee boss Nigel Jones says a similar thing happened to a rugby referee last season. He says a phone call was immediately made to the club, the post was withdrawn and a meeting was held with the person who wrote the post, ensuring it didn’t happen again. “It’s totally inappropriate and contrary to sporting spirit. We’ve seen nationally that abuse of referees is dealt with fairly harshly and so it should be.”

Internet safety expert John Parsons says club’s need to develop a social media policy or risk damaging their brand. “Organisations can spend a lot of time developing their brand and their reputation, which can be damaged in seconds.”

He says when employees or volunteers use social media platforms branded with the organisations name to promote points of view, the public often considers this to be the view of the organisation itself.

“If the views expressed are incorrect, target an individual, or cause personal embarrassment to an individual, the organisation learns very quickly to develop a social media policy. It can also be harmful for organisations that rely on charitable donations, government funding and public support.”