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Former rugby ref Nigel Owens opens up about ‘dangerous’ impact of keeping sexuality secret

08 Feb 2021 4 minutes Read
Nigel Owen. Picture by Florian Christoph (CC BY 2.0).

Former rugby referee Nigel Owens has opened up about the “dangerous” impact keeping his sexuality secret had on his life.

Owens, who recently retired after a 17-year career, told Times Radio that on one occasion he found himself in a “very scary situation” where he was “fearing” for his life.

The TV personality, who currently holds the world record for the most test matches refereed, said that “scared of boing found out”, which led him to go “to meet places in people where you shouldn’t be meeting people”.

He said that he wasn’t able to “keep relationships” at the time and described the situation as “heart-breaking”.

He said: “It did contribute to relationships not working because when somebody goes for a date with his girlfriend of boyfriend and they go to the cinema now. It’s a lovely feeling isn’t it, going on that first date you know, going to the cinema, going for food after.

“I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do those little things that make things special and which helps relationships grow. It was very difficult, and I wasn’t able to have relationships during that time.

“I certainly wasn’t able to keep relationships, which was also, you know, very difficult and very heart-breaking.

“You’d also, as well, put yourself in dangerous and difficult situations because of the secrecy of it all back then. You know, going on websites to find the date to try and meet people, because one didn’t know where to go, scared of going to a gay club, never been before.

“Scared of being seen going there or not knowing where to go, or going to meet places in people where you shouldn’t be meeting people. On one occasion I found myself in a very scary situation where I fearing for my life.

“There’s also those dangers that people don’t realise because of the secrecy around it all, of being scared of boing found out and everything.

“It’s a very difficult time for somebody when they are living that lie. Honesty is the best policy. I was brought up by my mum and dad, you know to say be honest, be respectful and here I was, lying to pretty much everybody about who I was and the way I was living my life.”

‘Relationships breaking up’ 

He added: “I had some relationships but I had to hide them and then that contributed to those relationships breaking up.

“I remember going on a date one evening to a Pizza Hut in Swansea. One of my friends Dwayne Peel, the ex-international Welsh rugby player who was a couple of years younger than me in school, comes in with his wife now, with his girlfriend at the time.

“They come into Pizza Hut and the person was on a date with had actually gone to the toilet. Once I saw him come through the door my heart stopped basically. My stomach cramped up with fear.

“How am I going to explain this? Is he going to find out? Is he going to tell other people? Oh my god. It was a horrible horrible feeling.

“So, I went to the toilet and told the person I was on a date with ‘don’t come back to the table. You know. My friend is here. They can’t find out.’

“So, he had to pretty much hide in the toilet for a bit. I asked for the pizzas to be put in a takeaway box and I snuck out and at the pizza in the car, and that was the end of that date.

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