As sad as it is to see what happened with the whole Rob Hicks situation – and the response of St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus – it does make you think about whether referees do need to be on Twitter at all.
Social media can have positive but also negative impacts.
Obviously, Rob has got it in the extreme with what happened to him – which is horrendous – but being on Twitter puts him in a position whereby he can be fired at.
Players are the same. They have to take the rough with the smooth.
I hear plenty of stories of people getting abuse face-to-face from people at amateur games.Gareth Ellis
You get lots of pats on the back on social media when things are going well and that makes you feel good.
But it doesn’t take many bad games before suddenly you’re crap, you don’t deserve to be earning what you’re getting paid and people are firing at you about all sorts.
When these people are hidden behind a keyboard and computer screen or phone, that can escalate quite quickly.
And it’s not just on social media.
I hear plenty of stories of people getting abuse face-to-face from people at amateur games.
Generally, referees will get criticised in some shape or form particularly when a side has not got the right end of the result.
It has always been the case but we do need to get it cut out of the sport.
McManus was clearly disappointed that – during the build-up towards his side facing Warrington Wolves in the Challenge Cup final – Hicks met with the Warrington CEO Karl Fitzpatrick and the Warrington fan that issued the death threat for a piece that was released in the media.
McManus called it a “publicity stunt”.
I’m not sure if that’s the case. In fact, I think it’s a great idea to do this to highlight that there are real people behind a Twitter handle and how online abuse can affect people.
Obviously, Saints suffered a shock loss at their first Wembley final since they beat Hull FC in 2008 and they were understandably aggrieved in those circumstances when Hicks failed to even go to the video referee for the Morgan Knowles effort early on that was clearly a try yet not given.
McManus mentions the ‘perception of officiating impartiality was destroyed’ because of it.
I don’t think anything untoward has gone on at all but I can see the point he is making and why he would be frustrated.
And I know McManus; he’s not just a chairman. He’s a fan of St Helens. If he wasn’t chairman he’d be supporting them in the stands.
He’ll have led the team out at Wembley and you can understand why he would be so angry.
I can see why he would want to vent his frustration. He will be massively aggrieved.
Still, as much as Hicks has made a mistake, he will not have done that on purpose and using his programme notes is probably not the best way for McManus to make his point either.
It will be interesting to see how the RFL deal with all the fall out from hereon in and if any changes regarding social media are made for the future.