Online troll prosecuted who harasses rugby fan


A rugby supporter in Australia has been prosecuted in what World Rugby has labeled a “boundary-pushing” move after he harassed a match official online during last year’s World Cup.

Aaron Isaia (22), a youth worker from Brisbane who was born in New Zealand, pleaded guilty on Monday. He escaped jail but was still fined AUS$1 000 (about R12 000) suspended for 12 months.

Isaia has also been banned from all World Rugby events.

During the World Cup, Isaia sent threatening messages on Facebook to a TV referee and his wife. An online World Rugby program used to support match officials and their families was used to track him down.

Alan Gilpin, chief executive of World Rugby, welcomed the ruling and described it as “boundary-shifting”.

This was the first successful prosecution of an online troll of this nature and similar cases in five other jurisdictions are pending.

“The disgusting and toxic abuse is hopelessly too commonplace for too many sportsmen and public figures.

“We hope this sends a strong message to online trolls that such behavior is simply unacceptable and that the sport and the authorities are prepared to take action.”

In a separate incident, Wayne Barnes, who refereed the World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand in Paris, reportedly received death threats after the match. The same apparently happened to TV referee Tom Foley.