Popular rugby referee Nigel Owens has responded to Austin Healey’s comments about him.
Nevertheless, he remains one of the world’s top referees but Healey had this to say about Owens after that match in Limerick.
“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.
“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.”
However, has responded to this in his column for WalesOnline and outlines his disappointment that Healey believes he puts himself on a pedestal and that any media work that Owens does is because he wants to speak up for ‘inclusion, diversity and equality’.
“Yes, I’ve become well known. It would be naive to say otherwise,” wrote Owens for Wales Online.
“I guess anybody who referees a World Cup final is going to be in the public spotlight, to a degree. Before that match, I was recognised in Wales, but afterwards things did change quite noticeably. Suddenly people started coming up to me on the Tube in London, which had never happened previously.
— WalesOnline Rugby (@WalesRugby) April 14, 2018
“But where Austin disappointed me was in saying I put myself on a pedestal. Let me assure you, I do anything but.
“It was an honour to be asked to referee the World Cup final. That is the highlight of any referee or player’s career. It is what we work towards and I’m no different to anyone else.
“The work I do for charity, or when I speak up for inclusion, diversity and equality, also puts me in the public domain, I suppose.
“But I don’t do, or say, these things because I want to be a celebrity. I do it because sharing stories helps people. I appreciate being an international referee has given me a profile, but when I speak up on LGBT matters it is because that is what is perfectly normal for me, not because of any so-called celebrity status. or seeking a limelight.
“The important thing isn’t Nigel Owens, but the people and causes I’m trying to help.”