Widely acclaimed for both his no nonsense dealing with players on the pitch and his reliably fair and informed refereeing, Nigel Owens is a popular figure on and off the pitch, appearing on a number of TV shows as well as on the pitch due to his neat sense of comic timing. His witty and cutting put downs of transgressing players in a rugby game have garnered him a wide fanbase and meaning he is in popular demand through his Nigel Owens booking agent at MN2S Agency in London.
Advised not to pursue a playing career in his early days on a rugby field, Owens decided to instead turn his attention to refereeing so as to follow a career path in the sport he loves. From his beginnings refereeing around his Welsh hometown Mynyddcerrig, he has risen through the ranks of referees in the game, his biggest achievement being his recent overseeing of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final.
Owens received praise for his handling of the high pressure game between favourites New Zealand and challengers Australia, not least from the losing captain himself, David Pocock, who approached him straight after the final whistle. Despite receiving criticism from the Australian press following the match, Owens’ resilience and quality as a referee meant he could keep his head high.
He commented: “There will always be a couple of decisions people are talking about because it’s impossible to referee a game of rugby without making some mistakes,” accepting that in the difficult role of a referee, some erroneous calls are inevitable. Although Owens doesn’t let criticism affect his confidence, hearing it is no less difficult in the tricky role of a referee, stating, “If you can’t deal with criticism as a referee you can’t do this job. So there is something inside you that helps you deal with that.”
His reputation in the world of rugby for consistently impressive refereeing performances earned him the World Rugby Referee Award just one day following the final. Owens commented on the achievement, “It is like a player’s career, a huge honour and a pinnacle to get to the World Cup final,” and explained how different a ref’s experience was to a player’s: “The players are looking to win the final but you are in a no win situation as a referee because you will never become a winner.”
Having overseen a memorable match, Owens was quick to compliment the sportsmanship of the losing team captain David Pocock, who, despite the desperate disappointment of losing the World Cup Final, moved immediately to congratulate Owens on his excellent handling of the game.
Earlier in the tournament Owens’ no nonsense style was best heralded in one incident with the Scottish international Stuart Hogg, where the referee reprimanded the player for a dive more suited to a football pitch. Thanks to rugby referees wearing microphones on the pitch, viewers heard him say, “There was nothing wrong with [the tackle]. If you want to dive like that again, come back here in two weeks and play [when the football's on], not today. Watch it.”
Owens is well known in the rugby community and indeed the wider sporting world, for his courageous decision to come out as gay in 2007, trying so hard to repress it that he even made an attempt on his own life. Since coming out he has received a substantial amount of internet trolling, but much more praise for the decision he made, and even makes reference to it when refereeing games, joking, for instance, that a lineout was as straight as he is.
Owens happily acknowledged the response he received from the rugby community, enforcing his view that, “The diversity in rugby is there for everyone. That’s why I’ve said many times, it’s not only the greatest team sport in the world on the field, in my view, but the greatest team sport off the field too.”
The former Welsh full-back Gareth Thomas faced a similarly difficult decision when he came out in 2009, to become the first professional rugby player to express his homosexuality publicly. His actions, like Owens’, have been hailed as exemplary in the often homophobic world of male professional sport.
As a well-respected referee and occasional popular TV personality, Nigel Owens is in high demand for appearances at private and corporate events and for brand endorsement opportunities, through MN2S Booking Agency in London.
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