Welsh Rugby
Johnson slams Owens over Twitter use
ESPNscrum Staff
December 21, 2011
Welsh referee Nigel Owens offers some instruction, Munster v Leinster, Heineken Cup semi-final, Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland, May 2, 2009
Nigel Owens has come in for criticism from Scott Johnson © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Scott Johnson | Nigel Owens
Teams: Ospreys | Scarlets | Wales

Ospreys boss Scott Johnson has hit out at referee Nigel Owens over his use of the social networking site Twitter.

The Ospreys coach has argued that it is "lunacy" that Owens is allowed to communicate with players he may officiate via Twitter. The Ospreys tackle the Scarlets on Monday and Johnson believes the referee's use of the social networking tool could lead to "unfair accusations labelled against people."

"He is on social networks talking to opposition players," Johnson said. "He posted the last time we played them apologising to the Scarlets supporters for forward passes. When you start that, you open up a can of worms.

"That can have unfair accusations labelled against people. The sport can do without it."

And Johnson has suggested Owens should not be making contact with players he is likely to encounter in his capacity as an official. "We've got people in places of supposed power, we don't need to know the personal life of officials," Johnson said. "We don't need them in contact with the players and using social media as a way of doing that.

"We don't need that as a sport, and I don't need it as a coach, to then start to have players mocking officials off the field. When we turn up at a game to play rugby, we have to respect the officials. But the respect button is not an easy one to turn on and off.

"The people that are allowing this to occur need to take a good hard look at themselves. It has gone completely too far. It is out of control. This is about the integrity of our sport. Last year [Owens] apologised for a forward pass he missed against us that Richard Fussell scored a try from.

"The public doesn't need to know that."

Owens was at the centre of a media storm following Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu's criticism of the referee during the World Cup. And Johnson has claimed that the Ospreys try to regulate what their players post on Twitter. "I've had kids dragged to my attention here that they've posted things," Johnson said. "But what do I do to control this? Because we are the face of a public and we're trying to set examples.

"It is very difficult for us to try to set standards when other standards are occurring somewhere else, it is lunacy that it is allowed to occur. I want the kids that I coach to be good role models and have good ethics.

"You have a look at all the tweeting around the world and how much controversy it has caused in big sports. We don't want to go down that road of banning Twitter, I want to show kids what is right when you're in this position and what is not appropriate.

"It is the bane of our existence because things gets said on there that you'd think you would want to remain private."

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