Nigel Owens is a professional rugby union referee who made history by coming out as gay in 2007. One of the most recognisable figures in the game, Nigel is the world’s first openly gay referee and has overseen some of the sport’s biggest matches. Away from the pitch, he has become an established LGBT speaker who can recall the difficulties of being gay in such a masculine sport at corporate, public and Pride events.
Nigel always struggled with his sexuality, particularly due to homosexuality being stigmatised in the world of sport. Coming to terms with who he had caused him to suffer from mental health problems and he even debated taking his own life. When booked as an LGBT speaker he often discusses these dark moments in his life, showing audiences how it is possible to overcome adversity and rebuild your mental health. Nigel is a patron of the LGBT Centre of Excellence Wales, a testament to how far he has come to pioneer support and equality for the LGBT community. In recognition of such work, he was made MBE in 2016.
Throughout his career, Nigel has taken charge of some of the biggest rugby matches in the world both nationally and on the international stage. His first Test match came in 2003 and since then he has officiated more Test matches than any other official. This includes three World Cups and arguably his biggest success to date came when he oversaw the final in 2015 between New Zealand and Australia. As one of the first-ever Welsh professional referees, Nigel’s longevity in the game is truly unique and his authoritative yet fair approach has made him incredibly well respected across the world.
When booked as an LGBT+ speaker you’re receiving a true pioneer who has received a whole host of accolades over the course of his career. This includes being named ‘Gay Sports Personality of the Year’ in 2007 and 2015 ‘Gay Sports Personality of the Decade.’ Hailed by Pinc as one of Wales’ leading LGBT figures, in his youth he suffered from bullying, bulimia and suicidal thoughts, powerful topics of his speaking engagements. A true gay icon, Nigel leaves a resounding impact on audiences at events.