Munster Rugby have reported incidents of ‘offensive online harassment and abuse’ of their players to An Garda Siochána, according to a report in the Limerick Leader.
The online abuse, directed at a number of players across various social media channels, is of a personal manner and not in regards to sport.
In a statement released to the paper, a spokesperson for Munster Rugby said that specific social media accounts had been created “for the purpose of attacking and abusing players, while also falsely claiming to be Munster Rugby players online.”
“This is not rugby-related. This is targeted abuse and has moved beyond the players’ themselves. It has linked in to their family and friends. These people are actively looking to destroy reputations and falsely represent people.
“First and foremost our players are people. While the public see them as sportspeople, there are people number one in our line of work and rugby players number two.
“It is the person, our people who are being attacked here. That is who we are trying to protect. As a group, everyone is being attacked. What they are trying to do to them, there is a human side to it.”
The spokesperson confirmed that the abuse had been reported to the Gardai and an investigation is now underway.
Munster return to PRO14 action this weekend against Zebre in Thomond Park as they continue preparations for their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Edinburgh next Saturday in BT Murrayfield.
The statement to the Limerick Leader continued to say that objective of Munster Rugby is to ensure that the players are able to cope with the online harassment and that their welfare is to the forefront of their minds.
“We are checking in constantly with the players. I think actually venting these things unifies you, because, it maybe is an attack on one player this week and another player next week, some players may not be getting it, but as a group, you stand together on it.
“This abuse has been going on for months and we haven’t seen that (negative) effect on the pitch. We had won seven in a row up to losing our most recent game. This is going on in the background for months and it hasn’t impacted on performance. As a group, everyone is very strong and united on it.
“From a player welfare point of view, it is constant communication with players, it is talking to the Gardai it is bringing in external services where possible, we are speaking with a forensic scientist at the moment just to talk about online behaviours.
“Our biggest objective here is to make sure players can cope with that so that now is moving into another level that we have never seen before. Now we are trying to address that and see how we work with our players on this and make sure everyone is coming through the right side of it.”