- Welsh International Rugby Union Referee
- ‘Gay Sports Personality of the Year’ in 2007
A former school technician at Ysgol Gyfun Maes Yr Yrfa Cefneithin and youth worker with Menter Cwm Gwendraeth, Owens was appointed as an international referee in 2005, and that year officiated his first international between Ireland and Japan in Osaka. Along with Wayne Barnes of England and Marius Jonker of South Africa, Owens made his World Cup debut in Lyon, France on 11 September 2007 for the Argentina vs. Georgia match. He is only one of two referees ever to be appointed to referee two consecutive Heineken Cup finals: Munster v Toulouse at the Millennium Stadium in 2008 and Leicester Tigers v Leinster at Murrayfield in 2009.
In May 2007, he publicly came out as homosexual in an interview with Wales on Sunday. Although reactions have been generally positive, it was a difficult decision to make. He had even contemplated suicide.
“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. 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.”
Shortly after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Owens was named ‘Gay Sports Personality of the Year’ by gay rights group Stonewall’s gay awards ceremony in London.
He is also now a patron of the LGBT Centre of Excellence Wales and of the Wooden Spoon Society rugby charity.
He is also known as one of the presenters on Jonathan, a rugby-themed chat show hosted by former Welsh international Jonathan Davies, broadcast on S4C on the eve of big international matches. He also co-presents the sports-themed chat show Bwrw’r Bar. In November 2008 he released his autobiography in Welsh called “Hanner Amser” which means Half Time. The English version was launched at the end of October 2009.
Owens was born and bred in a small village called Mynyddcerrig in the Gwendraeth Valley in South Wales.
Nigel is available for after dinner speaking and is well suited to rugby functions/dinners.