With 111 test matches under his belt since his first in 2006, the 44-year-old ends up as the most seasoned referee in the annals of international rugby.
However, Barnes’ announcement comes less than a week after Telegraph Sport disclosed that he and his spouse, Polly, had received death threats and online abuse after the World Cup final. This was in response to a similar backlash after Barnes officiated the Springboks vs. France test last autumn.
Polly Barnes wrote on Instagram following their two children’s viewing of the Stade de France final on Saturday night, saying, “What a vile atmosphere at the Stade de France.” “See ya later, Rugby World Cup. It’s just a game, k—heads,” the person said. Not going to miss you or the threats of death.
In a surprise announcement, Barnes said he was retiring, citing his family and many mentors.
Barnes said, “I have been in the middle of some of the greatest rugby matches in history over the past 20 years.”
“I have seen some of the world’s best players and worked with some of the finest coaches the game has ever produced. Last Saturday, I was privileged to referee the Rugby World Cup final between two of the most iconic teams in sport: the All Blacks and the Springboks. People often say you will know when it is the right time to retire, and this is clearly the right time for me and for my family.
“I am now looking forward to family weekends, sports games, school assemblies, and birthday celebrations because my kids have missed out on quality time with their dad for far too long. More than anybody else, my wife Polly has made sacrifices to enable me to fulfill some of my personal ambitions. She has had to balance being a fantastic mother to two active children and maintaining a very successful career while I have been away for significant periods of the year and most weekends.
In addition, Barnes established himself as a mainstay of European club football by officiating three European Champions Cup finals and ten Premiership finals. He concluded by denouncing the prevalence of hate speech on the internet and saying that he would not be lost to the sport or officiating.
“In particular, since online abuse and threats have become far too regular for all of those involved in the game, I will continue to advocate for referees and work closely with the International Rugby Match Officials association to ensure match officials across the globe not only have a collective voice but also the appropriate support network for them and their families,” he continued.
My career has included five Rugby World Cups, twenty-six Six Nations matches, three European Champions Cup finals, and ten Premiership finals. I am incredibly proud of all the people who have supported me during this journey, especially Chris White, Tony Spreadbury, Brian Campsall, Nigel Yates, and Phil Keith-Roach. The journey has been amazing.
Wayne Barnes ‘will be remembered as one of the greats’
Soon after, World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont responded to tributes for Barnes, saying, “Wayne has been a truly fantastic ambassador for rugby, both on and off the pitch.” In addition to his outstanding career as a referee, what sets him apart is his broader contribution to the game, which has increased accessibility to refereeing. He is a credit to the game, his country, and his family, and he will rightfully be regarded as one of the greats.
“On behalf of World Rugby and the international rugby community, I would like to express my gratitude to Wayne for his extraordinary devotion, passion, and love for the game, all of which have contributed to his selection as the winner of the Rugby World Cup 2023 final, the game’s highest honor. In 2019, he was also a worthy winner of the World Rugby Referee Award.
“Officiating is one of the hardest jobs in sports, if not the hardest. It takes a unique individual to be so good for so long, to referee 111 tests, and to gain the respect of players, coaches, and fans alike. This individual must possess passion, dedication, and a strong support system.
Manager of World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Officials Joël Jutge continued, saying that Wayne’s aptitude for reading and comprehending the game is unmatched. He also personifies the enthusiasm, skill, and commitment that drove a stellar group of match officials during the Rugby World Cup 2023.
“He has greatly contributed to the advancement of match officiating standards both on and off the field. He is an asset to refereeing and a role model for those aspiring to take up the whistle. All the best for the upcoming chapter to Wayne, Polly, and the family.