Nigel Owens is a world-record-breaking rugby union referee who made history when he came out as gay in 2007. The world’s first openly gay referee, Nigel has officiated some of the biggest matches in the sport including the World Cup final. Throughout his life, Nigel struggled with his sexuality, especially as he was active in a sport where homosexuality is few and far between. Coming to terms with who he was not easy for Nigel and he even contemplated suicide. At his mental health speaking events, he often discusses these dark periods in his life making him one of the best mental health speakers on the circuit.
Over the course of his refereeing career, Nigel has overseen some of the biggest rugby matches in the world on both the domestic and international stage. His first Test match came in 2003 and he has gone on to officiate more Test matches than any other referee including at three Rugby World Cups. Arguably his career highlight came in 2015 when he oversaw the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia and at his speaking events he can wow audiences by explaining what it’s like being centre stage at such a prestigious occasion. His longevity in the game can be put down to his authoritative yet fair approach to officiating which is also combined with a great sense of humour.
Born and raised in the Welsh village of Mynyddcerrig, Nigel worked as a school technician and farmhand before becoming a professional referee. His European debut came in 2001 overseeing a European Challenge Cup match between London Irish and Piacenza. He was one of the first-ever professional Welsh referees and a year later refereed a Heineken Cup match for the first time.
Nigel’s bravery has seen him honoured with a number of awards and in 2007 he was named ‘Gay Sports Personality of the Year’ and in 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. Whether he is discussing his excellent rugby career or detailing his heartfelt journey with mental health, Nigel makes for fantastic mental health speaker.