The Breakdown | Welcome to Wayne’s world: Barnes lifts lid on the dark side of refereeing

Wayne Barnes, renowned rugby referee, has released a captivating autobiography titled Throwing the Book. In the book, Barnes shares amusing anecdotes from his career, including memorable encounters with players such as Martin Johnson and Joe Marler. However, beyond the lighthearted stories, Barnes also sheds light on the darker side of the modern game. He recounts the verbal abuse, death threats, and personal attacks he has endured throughout his career. Barnes emphasizes the need for everyone involved in rugby, from administrators to fans, to read his book and confront the issues facing the sport.

Barnes, known for his self-deprecating humor, possesses a sharp legal mind that allows him to uncover the truth. He reveals that rugby officials often feel caught in the middle, taking the blame for ill-conceived initiatives forced upon them without proper notice. Tackle height, bunker reviews, breakdown interpretations, and difficult national captains all contribute to the increasing demands of being a top-level referee.

Despite the challenges, Barnes remains optimistic about rugby's future. He believes the focus should shift away from obsessing over minor details and striving for perfection. Instead, he advocates for the development of an overarching philosophy that promotes the game's core values such as resilience, discipline, tolerance, and sociability. Barnes draws inspiration from cricket, where players who publicly dispute on-field decisions face financial penalties. He suggests that rugby could learn from this approach.

Barnes also highlights the importance of preserving the spirit and soul of the game in the face of intense scrutiny, endless replays, and overly passionate coaches. He laments the growing influence of humorless individuals and vicious social media trolls, calling attention to the harm they cause.

Ultimately, Throwing the Book serves as a reminder that rugby is played and refereed by human beings. Barnes's book humanizes the sport and underscores the debt owed to individuals like him. The autobiography not only offers entertaining stories but also prompts reflection on the state of rugby today. Barnes's call for a shift towards a more inclusive and less detail-obsessed approach should be heeded by rugby's authorities and all those involved in the sport.

Throwing the Book: the Strifes and Crimes of a Rugby Referee by Wayne Barnes is a must-read for rugby enthusiasts. Published by Constable, the autobiography provides a unique perspective on the challenges faced by referees and the need for the sport to evolve.

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