Nigel Owens MBE
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Topics: Mental Health, Equality, Diversity, Leadership
Nigel Owens MBE is recognised as one of the world’s best rugby referees.
He is the first openly gay man to come out in professional rugby. A fluent welsh speaker he first picked up the referee whistle aged 16. Owens officiated his first international game in 2005 between Ireland and Japan in Osaka. He is the current record holder for test matches refereed.
He made his World Cup debut in 2007 in France. He is the only referee ever to be appointed to referee three consecutive Heineken Cup finals (2015, 2016 & 2017) as well as refereeing another three finals in 2008, 2009 & 2012 making it a record six European cup finals as well as two challenge cup finals.
In 2015, Nigel was appointed referee for the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham. He has also refereed a record six Pro14 finals.
Aside from refereeing, Nigel is a co-presenter on S4C’s Jonathan – the rugby-themed Welsh language show hosted by Jonathan Davies. He also presents other Welsh language chat shows on S4C.
He also won huge plaudits for his Desert Island Discs programme on Radio 4 hosted by Kirsty Young. In 2017 he presented the Panorama programme on Eating Disorders in Men and Boys.
Nigel’s autobiography was released in in Nov 2008, in Welsh called “Hanner Amser” (Half Time). With the English version released in 2009 which is still selling well today. Nigel was named ‘Gay Sports Personality of the Year’ by gay rights group Stonewall at its annual 2007 awards ceremony in London and then the Gay Sports Personality of the Decade in 2016.
In the 2016 Birthday Honours, Owens was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to sport.
For his work on and off the pitch in rugby and in equality, inclusiveness and mental health he was received may awards including “ An Honorary Doctorate at both Swansea 2016 and South Wales University 2018”. A Honorary Fellowship at both Cardiff Met University 2016 and Cardiff University 2016.”
His autobiography, Hanner Amser (“Half Time”), was published in Welsh in 2008, then in English in 2009. On 24 July 2017, Owens presented a Panorama documentary about men and eating disorders. In it, he opened up about his own experiences with bulimia and how it has affected his life, highlighting his refereeing of the Rugby World Cup as a significant trigger.
Nigel refereed at his fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.