There came a point last year when enough was enough for Chris Kendall William Jackson in the HUll Daily Mail reports

As a Super League referee, Kendall is certainly used to seeing his decisions and actions spoken about or scrutinised by coaches, players and fans alike. If anything, it comes with the territory of having such a role within the game and taking charge of the biggest and most important game has to offer.

But, as the 2020 campaign approached its climax and the race for silverware began to heat up, Kendall was forced into making the difficult decision to turn his back on social media.

Throughout the 2020 season he had been fairly active on Twitter, but with fans locked out of stadiums and watching on from home and almost every game being shown live on Sky Sports, Kendall was subjected to torrents of abuse online.

As a result, despite seeing the positives of social media, Kendall simply could not be present on the platform any longer.

“I wouldn’t say it was any one particular message or tweet or anything, it’s the sheer amount of stuff,” Kendall told Hull Live as he continues to prepare for the new campaign.

“Referees aren’t above criticism, fans, coaches and players are entitled to have opinions on performances and decisions and social media is a place where those opinions can be aired. It’s a way of fans being able to get stuff off their chest.

“It’s increased more since we’ve had no fans in stadiums, it’s got worse. There’s a line between airing criticism and airing abuse and I think it’s a pretty obvious line.

“A lot of the stuff you receive is from nameless and faceless accounts. The sheer amount of it and the strength of it that comes, it can get a little bit overwhelming.

“I’m expecting to go on Twitter in the days after a game and see people not agreeing with decisions, that’s the nature of the game.

“You look at any decisions in games and one teams’ fans will think it’s right and one team will think it’s wrong – there’s always going to be a difference in opinion.

“At times it’s not about particular decisions, it can get quite personal and it can be quite aggressive and directed at family or me and the sheer amount of it made me think the positives of having social media aren’t worth it.”

Kendall is no stranger to a high profile game or event, having officiated the last two Super League Grand Finals and at the end of the season he will be involved in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

As such, for someone tasked with making snap judgments and decisions that have the potential to make or break or season, the importance of mental preparation cannot be underestimated, but that becomes harder when malicious comments intrude into your private life.

“I’d say that if you’re subjected to that kind of stuff, not just me but players, coaches and other referees, it’s hard not to (have a mental impact) on some kind of level whether that be conscious or sub-conscious,” he added.

“It’s about being able to switch off from it You get to a point where you can’t switch off from it and you can’t get away from it.

“I could referee a game on a Thursday or a Friday night and go through a review process, whether that review process had been a positive or negative one.

“Whether I’m then preparing for my next game or trying to put a lot of the previous game to bed, if the game was on a Friday, I’m still receiving messages on a Wednesday.

“I could be having my dinner with my girlfriend on a Wednesday evening and closer to my next game than the one I last reffed and the sheer amount of messages that I’m still receiving and that makes it harder to switch off and move on from.

“It’s very much, we are a figure. Players are in the same boat with this. We’re seen as figures and not humans that have feelings.”

So why has Kendall chosen to return to social media over the off-season?

“I’d see a few comments saying ‘if you can’t handle it don’t be on Twitter or social media’,” he said.

“But I enjoy being on those platforms and see news as it happens and being able to engage with people and seeing what friends and people are doing.

“Out of season it’s a very different place to what it is during the season.

“That’s not to say that when games get up and running again that I will be on it a month into the season – I don’t know. Twitter is a great place but it can also be a cesspool, depending on what’s going on in the world.

He added: “One thing I would stress, though, is that it’s not a game wide issue or a rugby league family issue, we’re talking about isolated incidents and one in 100 people that maybe drag it down.”

However, Kendall believes the comments and abuse directed at match officials, not just in rugby league but other sports, too, over social media is also having an impact on the future of refereeing.

“It’s a cycle,” he said. “You see people blast the referees and say the standards aren’t good enough or this and that, but what they don’t realise by the strength of those comments then directly impacts our recruitment and progression of referees.

“It puts off the people that have been brave enough to start.”

The RFL have made their stance clear that they simply will not tolerate abuse and the discrimination of anyone involved in the game and through its ‘Tackle It’ campaign, the governing body is demanding stronger action from social media companies.

Kendall agrees that the likes of Twitter and Facebook must be held accountable for the hate that regularly crops up on their platforms and says more must be done in order to prevent it occurring: “I’m of the opinion that there needs to be some kind of check, whether that’s an ID check, I think your social media account should be linked to you.

“I could report a tweet for example and the best case scenario is that account gets deleted. But you could be back on Twitter within minutes by setting up a new email and twitter account. There’s no accountability for it. There needs to be something done.”

State of Mind Sport are in awe of all the skills needed to be a referee at any level and that we believe match official need to be given the respect they deserve and sport has historically allowed referee abuse to go unchallenged and we think this is wrong. WE would like to thank Chris and all referees for all the work they do to allow people to play the sports they love every week.