Bloody good referee here and no, I hadn’t known and don’t care now that I do. Welsh mind, which is a problem, but a bloody good referee:
The Rugby Football Union has launched an investigation into alleged homophobic and racial abuse of the Welsh referee Nigel Owens by a group of England supporters during the defeat by New Zealand at Twickenham last Saturday.
Owens, widely regarded as one of the top referees is world rugby, told Telegraph Sport that he welcomed the investigation but revealed he has considered quitting the sport because of an increasing level of homophobic abuse in stadiums and on social media.
However, so far I’m not quite sure whether there is increased levels of homophobic abuse (or any other kind). We might be seeing here the Polly Effect.
“What has become more evident is that while we may not be so aware of it on the field, I think we become more aware of it now through social media,” Owens said.
“When you see things that are tweeted by so-called rugby supporters about opposition teams and some of the tweets that I have had, you begin thinking ‘bloody hell, are these type of people really in our game?’ “I have had homophobic tweets and messages on Facebook from people who are shouting things that I could not repeat in your newspaper.
“It is creeping into the game and some of the tweets I have had are pretty nasty, really.
“Sometimes you get these comments and read these tweets and you think ‘do I really need this? Do I really need to do this job?’ It does get you down and I honestly think sometimes like saying ‘enough is enough, I will walk away from it all’.
The Polly Effect being what happened over at The Guardian when the comments section online started, a decade or so ago. Suddenly La Toynbee (after whom the effect is named of course but this applies to many more than just her) found that the reading audience did not hang upon her every word and agree with her pronunciamentos. They were willing to argue with her grasp of facts, logic, basic political principles and, in effect, not treat her as the guru telling us all like it is ex cathedra.
It was one hell of a shock to the pontificating classes after those decades when the editorial staff had largely protected them from readers’ letters, allowing through only the more amusing ones in green ink.
The difference was of course that the new technology allowed what people already thought to be expressed a great deal more cheaply. No longer a letter and a stamp, but just a quick noodle on the keyboard and one was done.
And that’s a bit of a problem for us here. Is there actually more homophobia in rugby? It’s certainly always been a pretty macho game but I would imagine (and don’t know of course, I’ve not been around it for a couple of decades) that it’s changed in the same direction as the rest of society, towards caring or worrying about it all a great deal less. But working in the opposite direction is that greater visibility and greater ease of expression that digital media offers.
“You Poof!” might have been shouted from the stands or sniggered in the scrum all along, a tweet that goes out to thousands is very much more visible. And far more likely to be seen by the object of the derision/hatred.
Agreed, I’ve no idea what the balance of these is. But I would insist that the Polly Effect has something to do with it, in some part at least.
Seriously, outside the largely non-rugby playing vibrantly Islamic part of our society, who really thinks that Britain is becoming more homophobic? That technology allows those who are to become more vocally so seems obvious, but the first contention doesn’t quite fit with everything else we know.
And on to an excellent joke. Stephen Fry, in drag as a middle aged woman. “Yes, I was very shocked when my son told me his boyfriend was gay”.
How very English of me, being incapable of discussing sex without finding an opportunity to titter about it.