Gay referee Marcus Griffiths on how rugby community supported him through homophobic abuse

RFL referee Marcus Griffiths

Gay referee Marcus Griffiths has been candid about the homophobic abuse he receives online after matches but has found refuge and unconditional support in the rugby league community.

Last year, Griffiths, who publicly came out as gay in 2021, was ruthlessly targetted with horrific homophobic messages and death threats – directed at both him and his mother.

The 28-year-old shared some examples of the disgusting messages he was being sent with his followers, writing: “When people ask, ‘Why do we still need Pride?’, this is the reason!”

RFL referee Marcus Griffiths
Gay rugby referee Marcus Griffiths was subjected to horrific homophobic abuse last year. (Getty Images)

The messages were sent to Griffiths shortly after he refereed a match between Huddersfield Giants and Leeds Rhinos, and some of his decisions likely rubbed some fans the wrong way.

After taking a few days away from social media Griffiths was bowled over by the outpouring of love and support he had received from the rugby league community.

In a new interview with ITV, Grifiths has said that it’s moments like that that remind him why he’ll never consider leaving his job.

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“That first week was one of the weirdest games I’ll ever officiate because running around the pitch and getting applauded during your warm-up doesn’t happen,” he told the news outlet about his return to the league after being subjected to homophobic abuse.

“It doesn’t happen at all. To get abuse and then applauded it was different within the space of a week.”

While Griffiths understands that criticism comes with the job, the homophobic slurs and death threats from disgruntled fans significantly crossed the line.

“We all experience some sort of criticism and understandably we will get things wrong and we’re not against criticism,” he said.

“However there are levels that aren’t to be crossed and not only were they homophobic in nature, they threatened to run my mum off the road.”

Griffiths, from Widnes, added that the close bond he shares with his fellow rugby league referees is why he’ll never think about leaving the league.

As he gets ready for the Super League this February, Griffiths is hoping that his presence will inspire other people in the LGBTQ+ community.

“If you can see it you can be it – that was my belief from when I did it, unintentionally not understanding why I did it just out of frustration, anger,” he said.

“All the negativity, I created a positivity out of it because people can see you can be an openly gay male and be involved in professional sport.”

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