TOP rugby referee Nigel Owens has threatened to report a Limerick Munster fan to the authorities for “homophobic abuse” on Twitter.
One of the few match officials to use the site to engage with fans, the Welsh referee was subjected to a torrent of abuse following Munster’s Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Clermont Auvergne.
He was referred to as a “p****”, a “Welsh b******”, and that he “screwd an honest team”.
A number of fans also made reference to the openly gay referee’s sexuality.
One user of the social media site described Mr Owens as a “gay c***”, a comment which prompted the official to tweet back: “You want me to report this to the police? Homophobic abuse.”
Many Munster supporters on Twitter rounded on the fan.
One wrote: “You know nothing about rugby. Why are you following Nigel if you don’t like him?”
Another comment read: “Your very mature aren’t you? You should apologise to Nigel for what you said.”
Others have also jumped to the referee’s defence - with former Munster star Mayor Gerry McLoughlin saying he is “totally disgusted” with the abuse.
But many fans remained critical of his performance.
“Nigel hope u watch replay of the match & hang your head in shame #munsterwererobbedbyyou,” one person stated, while another added: “My German Shepard at home would of seen that wasn’t a forward pass with Paul O’Connell.”
it is not the referee’s fault Munster lost the game: “It was because we did not score enough points. It is as simple as that!”.
Praising the referee, he said: “I think he did a very good job on balance. We have a great association with Welsh referees in particular. I love to see the fact a Welsh referee is officiating at a very important game like this. You always feel you are going to get a fair crack of the whip.”
He said those people who took to Twitter to criticise Mr Owens need “anger management” treatment.
“I cannot believe anyone would think about [doing this]. These people obviously do not know much about sport in general,” the mayor said, “In the heat of the moment, people will say things because they will be angry. But no match should upset anyone so much they cannot control their emotions.”
For his part, Mr Owens took time to respond to many comments on Twitter.
He wrote: “I don’t let things go in a game in favour of anyone. I make the calls as I see them, or don’t make them when I feel I don’t need.”
He added: “As long as I do my best, and ref fair like I always do, then I shall have no regrets. The idiots can tweet what they want.”
To one abusive tweeter, he wrote: “I hope u aint got kids mate, god help the future if that’s the example you set”.
Munster lost the Heineken Cup semi-final 16-10 in Montpelier to the French team.
But they won praise from many sections for the manner in which they stood up to Clermont Auvergne, considered favourites.