To honour the ongoing Rainbow Laces campaign, RUCK aimed to celebrate five openly LGBTQ+ rugby stars and explore how we can collectively work toward fostering change both on and off the rugby field.
1. Nigel Owens
Nigel Owens is a well-known figure in the world of rugby, recognized by fans, players, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of the sport. Not only does he hold the record for refereeing the most test matches, but he has also established himself as one of the most respected rugby referees globally.
Beyond his officiating duties, this Welshman has ventured into television and has become a dedicated advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. In recognition of his contributions, he was honored with the title of “Gay Sports Personality of the Decade” at the Stonewall awards ceremony in London in 2015.
“It’s such a big taboo to be gay in my line of work, I had to think very hard about it because I didn’t want to jeopardise my career,” he confessed.
“Coming out was very difficult and I tried to live with who I really was for years. I knew I was ‘different’ from my late teens, but I was just living a lie.”
Refereeing in as sport like rugby also hindered his decision.
“When I became a referee, it became clear that there was nobody in the sport who was gay.
“The rugby world is very heterosexual and masculine, and this made things difficult.
“Although that’s not to say that the sport is openly homophobic. It was just never an environment where I felt like I could be myself.”
STARTING A FAMILY:
He wrote in his column: “There’s not too much I can say at the moment about the process itself, but we are both incredibly excited. It’s something that we’ve spoken about for a few years now and it’s taken a while to get here, but now that it’s happening we can’t wait, although I must admit it’s also a little nerve-wracking.
“As any parent will tell you, there’s no bigger commitment than raising a child, so that was obviously the main reason why I decided against the South Africa job in the end. I couldn’t, nor would I want to, go away for the next six months with this happening.”