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“Loved ones don’t sign up for it” – Former Wakefield Trinity boss reveals effect of abuse

Mark Applegarth as head coach of Wakefield Trinity

Former Wakefield Trinity head coach Mark Applegarth has opened up about the abuse that he and his family got from supporters last year.

Trinity were relegated from Super League last year, winning just four games all season.

Speaking to BBC West Yorkshire Sport, he spoke about abuse online: “The people that write it are the ones that fascinate me, because you imagine going into their job and saying whatever it is they’re saying, or even sometimes threatening you or your family, and I’m like ‘these are fully-grown people’.

“There were a few that came back threatening certain things.

“I ultimately said to anyone that if anyone wants to come and chat to me, just turn up to the stadium, knock on the coach’s door and I’ll happily take an hour away and tell you exactly where I feel I’ve gone wrong or where we could improve and you tell me your thoughts.

“I’ve never been one of these people that distance myself from my community.

“It was more my wife and close family. They don’t sign up for that. As a head coach, you sign up for it, so you understand it, you deal with it.

“It’s the people that have to deal with those consequences of your action, which is signing up for that job, they don’t sign up to read that abuse about their loved one.

“It’s part of sport, unfortunately, now. It’s part of the modern world – they can say what they want without consequences.”

The Online Safety Bill, amended last year, requires social media sites and other platforms to take measures to prevent and deter online abuse, but reports consistently show that levels of online abuse are only increasing.

Wakefield Trinity players dejected

Credit: Imago Images

Applegarth also spoke on abuse he’d experienced first-hand: “I remember when we got relegated at Leigh, I walked over to the away fans and listened.

“I’d say 99 percent of the Wakefield fans completely understood the situation last year and the people that I spoke to were very nice to me and very understanding of it, even though it was hurting everyone.

“There was a fan absolutely yelling abuse at me, and it just caught my eye, and something in me said ‘I’ll just go over’ and I said “what do you want to say to me?” Not in an intimidating way, I said “please”, and he started crying.

“He said, ‘it’s not you I’m angry at, it’s the situation, but you’re the head coach, and the person I can vent my frustrations on’.”

Applegarth has since gone on to set up his own one-to-one coaching business in Wakefield after a break from the sport, after leaving Wakefield Trinity.

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