Writing in The Telegraph, former England international, turned outspoken pundit Austin Healey reckons no referee in any other sport has built up a profile quite like Nigel Owens.
‘There is no doubt that Nigel falls into the category of celebrity referee. No other referee comes close to matching his public profile. He has his own talk show. He has his own newspaper column in which he discussed Brexit this week. In fact I can’t think of a referee in any sport who has built up a profile like his and being able to pull it off.’ wrote Healey
‘Is it possible to be a celebrity referee? Can he afford to be as vocal as he has been on Twitter, or dress up as a leprechaun and Bob the Builder on his TV show, and still be considered an independent arbiter of fact? And does his role within the celebrity world influence his style of refereeing?’
‘… I have got the impression that Nigel is refereeing to the sound of his own whistle. He wants the game to flow, he wants the game to be a good spectacle but at what point is he refereeing his own interpretation rather than the actual laws?
‘This is a genuine question – is he so good now that he thinks he can mould the laws to his own wishes?
‘This isn’t to say he should stop doing his talk show or all that other stuff. He is a witty, funny man and, much like players sign commercial deals, he is making the most of what he has while he can.”
‘My question is whether that is affecting his ability to referee? Was Nigel Owens a better referee four or five years ago than he is today? I believe he was.’