Jump to main content


World Rugby To Protect officials & Players From Online Abuse During RWC 2023

Joy Neville, Chris Busby, Andrew Brace and Brian MacNeice 22/5/2023

Television match official Joy Neville, assistant referee Chris Busby, referee Andrew Brace and television match official Brian MacNeice are pictured together, earlier in the year, at the Aviva Stadium ©INPHO/Tom Maher

World Rugby has today announced that it will implement transformative measures to protect all match day officials and team squad players from online abuse during Rugby World Cup France 2023.

The move underpins World Rugby’s wider commitment to promote and protect the sport’s values and Rugby World Cup 2023’s mantra as the sport’s greatest celebration of togetherness, driving positive change.

World Rugby is partnering with data science company Signify Group who will use its AI-driven Threat Matrix service to put an online protective shield around all tournament match officials, players and coaches. The service will include:

  • Proactive real-time monitoring from open-source data on key platforms including X [formerly Twitter] and Instagram across the tournament
  • Coverage in over 30 languages including images and emojis
  • Daily reporting of abusive content and accounts to platforms to ensure appropriate action is taken
  • Expedite abusive content take-down/sanctioning of account holders – where platform community guidelines are evidenced to have been broken
  • Provide evidence to national associations to ban individuals from domestic and international rugby events
  • Most egregious cases have the potential to be reported to relevant law enforcement agencies and an ability to unmask the worst abusers who hide behind ‘fake’ accounts.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said:

“Rugby is a sport for everyone and we take our responsibility very seriously to make the sport as inclusive, accessible and relevant as possible. This includes sending a strong message that online hate simply will not be tolerated, tackling abuse and harmful content with meaningful action.”

World Rugby Chief Communications Officer Dominic Rumbles added: “Doing everything we can to set a good example and protect players and match officials is important to World Rugby and our unions, and extending that welfare to the arena of social media is both logical and timely.

“Abuse, on or off the field, has no place in our game and today’s announcement shows just how focused we are in tackling online hate aimed at the rugby family – working in partnership with proven experts Signify. This development also reflects our wider tournament goals to drive positive change and celebrate togetherness and unity; all part of a wider journey that World Rugby is very much focused on delivering.”

Jonathan Hirshler, CEO of Signify Group, said: “We are delighted to be working with World Rugby to help create a safer online space to ensure officials and players can be 100 per cent focused on their on-field responsibilities, and not be distracted and potentially harmed by vile online abuse. More and more sporting bodies are starting to take this issue seriously and it is great to be working with World Rugby where welfare is so core to its philosophy, in a sport built on respect, to drive positive change.”

The Irish Rugby Football Union, working with Six Nations Rugby, have also recently imprelmented Arwen.ai to tackle hate speech and harmful content within its online community, using advanced AI technology to filter, block, delete, and if needed, report cases.