Rugby

Nigel Owens Responds To Austin Healey's "Celebrity" Jibe

Nigel Owens Responds To Austin Healey's "Celebrity" Jibe

From the aftermath of Munster's churning of magic and mania against Toulon, Austin Healey scraped away a talking point: the performance of Nigel Owens. The Welsh whistler was perhaps generous in decreeing that Simon Zebo's first-minute intervention on Chris Ashton was a scrum rather than a penalty try and from there Toulon found a number of aggrieving decisions.

While the Toulon players creditably refused to blame Owens for the defeat, although their owner Mourad Boudjellal vented his anger. In his Telegraph column, Healey agreed that the Toulon owner had reason to be annoyed, claiming that Owens is a "celebrity referee".

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.

Owens has today used that column (with WalesOnline) to respond to Healey's claim.

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I would have thought doing [refereeing] Pontyberem versus Tumble under nines on a Sunday morning, the Bridgend Festival and various community games which I try to say yes to, is a million miles away from being a so-called ‘celebrity referee’.

Be that as it may, what I can tell you is that I’m not even a celebrity, let alone a celebrity ref. I don’t like that thought one bit.

If I got to the stage where I genuinely believed other things were more important, or getting in the way of my refereeing, then it would be time for me to pack up.

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 full column can be read here.

See Also: Jackson And Olding Release Statements Following Cancelling Of Their Contracts

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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