Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the rugby union referee Nigel Owens. His steely authority and quick wit on the field have won him worldwide praise - he's widely regarded as one of the best referees in the business for the impact he makes on the flow and coherence of a game. In 2015 he became the second Welsh official since 1991 to referee a World Cup Final - in a memorable match between New Zealand and Australia. Born and raised in a small village in Carmarthenshire, he first picked up the whistle aged 16, when it became clear to both his teacher and himself that he wouldn't make much impact as a player. A former school technician and farm worker, he broke through onto the international refereeing circuit in 2005 and took charge of his first Test when Japan hosted Ireland in Osaka that summer. In 2007 he became one of the first high-profile sports professionals to come out as gay - a courageous move in a sport which often defines the word macho. He has spoken about this decision as being the biggest challenge he has ever faced - even more so than officiating an international match under intense scrutiny in front of 95,000 spectators and a global TV audience. The severe depression he experienced coming to terms with his sexuality culminated in an attempt to take his own life in his twenties. He now says the unwavering support he has received from the rugby authorities, the players and the fans has enabled him to be true to himself and carry on working in the game he loves. Producer: Paula McGinley.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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the way this week. Is the rugby union refereed nigel owens? He is array of creature widely regarded as the best rift in the business is respected and even liked by players and much admired by fans for the impact he makes on a matches, coherence and flew. But it's not just his superb skill in keeping thirty marauding men and check over eighty brutal minutes of play, but also because in a sports marinated in the kismet, he has the courage to be openly gay. He's, happy childhood and a tiny, close knit village in south west wales came at a price as a young man. He struggled to come to terms with who he was and aged. Twenty four was lucky to survive a suicide attempt. He says all that matters is, he should be allowed to be yourself and treated with the same respect as every
buddy and rugby has allowed me and anybody else to be who they are so welcome, Michael o. In some I can look you square in the eye and say there is discernible difference in any much that you are referring in and I have watched many of them. The rules of the game are important. Clearly, and you know them back to front, but you seem to hold in your mind at all times the flow of the game. So how'd, you balance those two things. Could you do differently from most wraps? learning the laws and unknown the laws, the game and knowing went to blow the whistle ass, easy job. A. The secret, then, is knowing where not to blow it, I'm not either on us, but you need to get right if you wanna, be a top referee and remain at the top, is a feel for the gate and empathy with a place of trying to achieve with us. setting your boundaries out of what is acceptable and what is not an issue not always easy to get it. Even if you got the mask of doing us sometimes in games you let something go that you should a blow on something that you blow you shouldn't. Let that go on
it is not always easy, but that is a challenge and if you get that right and to a positive teams, then than you have the ingredients and of having a flowing game, is it true that the beginnings of your seller reference career could be attributed to missing a conversion? Very true tell me tell me about ass. I was sixteen at the time playing against escort griffith jones in saint clair. Here, come on how we hadn't wanna game or you we'd, be hammered forty. fifty points. Nearly every game. My best friend wean thomas he's gotta try in any supposed to know my other best friend craig allows a captain schools now, twelve all end of the game. I was painful buck and I thought this is my moment. Glory I'll, take this conversion rate. Confronted the post I'd be ledge any school. I took the conversion credit front of the post under and forced me to draw closer to the to the corner flag of in it.
between the upright sender. I was laughing stock in the school of mrs conversion and john by another layer on banana. Fortunately, a wonderful guy, a true rugby community guy and he said niger said he why she said for god's sake said, will you go letty referees, something said I said more right to condemn the a week. I went down to healthy referees, some into how schemes in school under and that's so. We started deliver I think about a mile and a half from where you were born and brought up quite a few of your choices today are deeply wells in their origins, the choices of your discs. How much has your country to find you as a person a huge amount of ink from not just my country but my language, my history, my heritage, my family on my community that is brought up in you know. A lot of people will tell you that the life is what you make it more question. I agree without because I'm a big believe that life makes you
community- were brought up in the people within the community or farmer, your friends, the local rugby club, everything around you, I think, when a growing up as young person will have a huge influence on you. But it's become juliet teens. Only twenty is, I think, then you you're probably become the person that you become for the rest of your life. Tell me about the first one, and what are we gonna hear? What the chosen when you go away all over the world them and I spent a lot the time away from home during the year and something like last year hundred eighty makes it easier ways in the words of a sleeping, inevitable somewhere a lot of time on your own. I always
Putting on maybe no something of reminds me or form, and the green green grass of whole looks the same step from the tree and made me down and sharing its green green, not a dry and the valleys. Nigel events, that was the green green grass of whom thompson's they're watching and listening to you on the pitch, not just making the right referee indecisions, you also have a great skill in dealing with the back chat, you're good at the witty
minors is there something of the performance on you? The provision Think, because I was on stage at fourteen years of age in my local working as clever money, caddy doing stand of comedy because they live and detain, meant and turned up for that night. I just got some clothes dressed up as emma an update of a foreign minister stand up commodore pretty much what he was doing so I was on this line taken in the air was here, but I dont woke in that field. Thinking right angles say something funded a day or somebody says they sang and say that I just say as it is and is probably part of our bringing growing up the old minors, in the stories they had in a lot of it, the truth, but a little bit added on to make a sound better, sir. I so I've always venus retail out an uproar becomes across the field, really narrowed. The of course highly physical contact sport. Part of enjoyment, is the passions, do run high? I mean you're, a fine figure of a man, but when you're standing next to when you stay civilian police, all two meters,
the monopoly, unarmed and fourteen kilos, and you want to send the send bitten and he's bearing down upon you d, ever lose your nerve to ever. Think that boys can a lamp me. You doth, I'm probably you know why, because a most important value, I think, on ethos of rugby union, his respect, respect from players to officials and amend vice versa, winning replay wales will how supporter sittings, torture, the supporting different teams yet enjoying each other's company, I'm not many sports allows that to happen, and, thankfully, because of the values of rugby, you know. Even when is six hundred and forty eight than one hundred and twenty kilos plus they do re back to you whether you agree with you. Why did they like you or not, and you ve got to get in among us as a referee and rugby, have you ever taken a tumble? Is any one of you there's a lowly clip on youtube: south africa, new zealand, twenty ten in soccer city, insurrectos of africa. Ninety five thousand crowed undamned, I went between in a scream from the outset off Jamaica. One is come off. A new zealand anti
decided no coming up to the mall that he was going to run into walls me thinking. If I run towards the referee and always going to talk to me because he won't talk of the referee and how wrong he was. You want smite tackled me shock, burger Talk to me in an alarmed up at the bottom was struck with all this. african in new zealand players taking great pleasure in it. Trampling Let me they stopped immediately. and he came to was right and help me up and managed to get through the game. But then I'm sure will make you, Gladwin, say think when you look at it, I'm gonna be doing at least for neither. Let me hear you second piece of music and microloans. What we gonna hear. What about it is is the worsening with songs the west version of how great, though out I was of a playlist in the change, those paying on speakers before a referee. Again
The last song that I will ever listened to before going out on the field will be hope with all my heart and do you have any other pre match rituals? Apart from that, I have my lucky boxes, which causes bought me for christmas for musical superman boxes better, I managed to get them to the world cup. they were passed, their best to add a hole in a very awkward place and then under. If I ever fell over the theatre, could it be very embarrassing but everybody vaughan, we two
my great time asked sue. You were born. Nigerians in the little village of monies can make in the first few years he lifted europeans in a small building and I've seen a very touching beautiful photograph use.
Tiny babe in your mama's holding you in her arms and there are the beautiful rolling wells hillsides in the back. To tell me more about your mother, the ashes, wonderful person remember she should have the way I was brought up by Fatima within the right. We talk right or wrong- saw today's she'd be cooking all day, I'd gone referee, my dad come and watch me putting the local game is an end. We call the pub enemy home for it for a beyond then we get will then be stuff for me ready to eat a definite. Was that's what we call the perfect day? Isn't it wasn't? It was? It was de as a small boy, and as I understand it, you your dad and your grandfather. You two breakin horses and you know that's a tough job. Not many people can do that successfully, certainly, and you would get on
horses when they were in that process of breaking the men, so that would build generic was a little boy. Surely it was an eu us my life as well? Are you were very injured me when I was born, my grandfather was inhospitably had a stroke monsieur stroke and my mom was actually in the hospital at the time of this was happening, ready, Her me, my grandmother, took me in his arms and after I was born and pretty much put me in my grandpa. his arms who was no in beggar the stroke, basically that he could hold me because you would probably never get it has to whom he again because expected him to pass away whether you know the visa of god or whatever happened, did the following day started improving. He got that came out of us be telling them. He then lived for another thirteen years, and I was I was very lucky to to be part of that thirteen years. really how condemn we're getting that emotion? I was most often to talk on them. My mom
data may live, do aground paris, then for about five or six years in the small holdings. If I only have a few forty acres reaction basis has been invented. Another ten or twelve acres, my gun with a cap tosses under my dad, was about to sell the horse. You know because my gun frozen hospital, he cannot say no, no, we keep the horses and dad would walk the horses. Then two different fields, and then I would jump on the back and learn to write and there was one horse Al Qaeda, beautiful horse and they will break in the end and my tat accomplish patience and I was on the back with a horse and make grandfathers able to stick with the site, who know how to tell you what to do. the horse with a move. In my onto my dad said of talked him in the back, the cold war and the horse rideth and fell backwards. I fell down in a hoarse falling on me, but, as I found my grandfather just dropped his stick to this. Just pull me out the way just in time to the hospital fell on some of the sight of me. He heard me a bit, but not that way.
That would have given could well, we didn't tell a grandmother and another for four years after two after my grandfather passed away where they would allow me to go on the horse again much more to come. for now, Nigel tell me about your next piece of music. We can listen to your site. Why have you in this? My cousin are taken over a local pub in income will always be somebody they're, pretty organ and there they ought to have to give us all knows about nine, ten levies old at the time. I went up suddenly some little peace in this old guy you there. They took his hat deronda purblind people, which money that I have a five or six pounds was the manufacture then,
just one just like it just like that way. I picture that was an echo and a little piece in the twenty thirteen nigel and she became patron of the anti bleeding charity bullies out. Indeed, I notice that you, in one of their bands, render us today you'd had direct experience as a kid Can you tell me what happened there was pulling, and I wasn t in the window of grammar school and enough, no particular reason unjust by one individual whose save ages me
the reason why a lot of people who are bullet do not talk about. It is because you feel a sense of shame ass. You feel a sense. It is your fault. You feel like you a week in it when people know that you were weak under a very difficult time in my life. And this one doesn t know what effect in my education they didn't want to go to school. I was running up, doing things that I've been taught not to do too late to my parents, and I was ill and didn't want to go to school under. I feel very passionate really about helping people to overcome this sense of of shameless really mean. Oh I've experienced myself so very, very horrible place. to be, and so he was sixteen when you refereed your first senior club game in wales. What were the highlights and go on to make up the balloon lights were right. The referee, the first a senior game, no less act as we were em. I couldn't
over sixty years of age. So I tore out in west. Is wonderful guy, look on his and already referee now, but to send me too far, because my dad contracts further than to a three miles locally he's, never driven on the dual cottager. When my mom was in hospital very ill. My dad drove down to see you when I turn his own unease drove down the wrong way, the dual cottager, so he was very very lucky. So I said you don't take me too far. He first came. He sent me to meet together on It was about an hour and a half car drive away. He said already said, are sorted out usually to lift the game. You can go your way team on the best known, creating suitable five six miles away. So I told the best of luck. Drop me off now about a half a mile before the club got off, go to change a raft, a game. last minute penalty to the way team, they one nine six back to the club boats and then the captain bill the waiting goes night come on buses ready as I'm going out.
Above all, the window stick into fingers apple shouting at me, and I could well finnish referee than I thought could only get better. Is that is the good news from that's only about your next piece of music. Friends were on you. Force were halfway through. Tell me about this, eleven was a very, very famous song in wales and every time I am somewhere, I was out in paris in a restaurant in middle of parties and somebody there recognize me said are well sir. Nigel my grandmother's nash is having a night give birthday party this to a people decreasing a song. So I sent they were all clapping and shooting. So when people sing a song is this: is this
videos and winter will end in the same way and you Did not finish your levels as I understand it was that connect to your unhappiness scope no, I was only unhappy school at first, you and I today levers and then, after two weeks in school, I went down to get the rugby ball from the office to vote and play reveal the yard, with amidst during dinner time and the headmaster when thomas, Adam boy, said you better met them also plain rugby today, because you can have a shot. The school tomorrow, caretakers gun off ill, and we can then reopen a school and, I said, is a joke ass, an easing of job. I do that I'm gonna wanna, followed day and timely, goes nigel, always had masses office. Peace in alma ignore what the hell you do know again, as always mischievous in school, because only Like you said them, I spoken come out in the end department. There will in future do the caretaker job You can come in in open up a six o clock to stop the core fires and thence
back in and help us three? Then he be finished by half a six locking up and do the fires overnight. Fifty three pounds: a six year old boy back in the mid glitt eighty zero, this wonderful and had masses had looking over the cat is coming back. No, it would be if another eight months, then he's retiring on a job, because if you want It- and I thought I guess so. I left school, went to work in a farm, but after working with a farm for a year, they needed a technician in the school. So went back to the same school work as judicial level. For thirty two marginal a few months ago. I cannot on a maybe that's why sometimes besides chicken, goes wrong when talking about education given new opportunities and give me a wonderful opportunity time to sit in the music nigel at tell me about this is the fifth the tell people the I had a girlfriend back. Then they would believe me, but I did m. This is the same, what does number one nonetheless have a smoking school, disclosing the club discos under without a snug at the end of the night, then the spirits of another polar love was
mean so much to be really because it sir. Why problems I gotta go, this. I was jennifer rush and the power of love chosen. You said nice loans because it holds very potent memories for you,
Those early smoking disco days- and I know you- you run a law- is a refugee aft befit almost as fit as fit as players. Will you in good shape? At that point? No, I wasn't. I was going to be some sort of alienating. Usually just was sixty six to have stolen and wove await. You struggled a lot with getting yourself in shape. Can you tell me a bit about that? Yes m? I was also stage, then on my life whispered, ninety starting to realise it I was. I was different that deciding if I myself, attracted to two men And it totally alien to be brought up in a small village had never met or seen or known a gay person in real life. The only guy people that I knew what you wanna to camp characters on the television programmes like. Are you served in it just something totally alien to me becoming somebody that I knew nothing about assembly? I didn't want to be so getting me down
I'm not going to be do any comfort eating and then a bigger and overweight, and I decided right if I ever try and get men attracted to me then, and I going to have to try to lose weight, and then I made myself a few things I became bulimic so now I wasn't feeling good it really thin and looking drawn. Looking then right in the gym, then the gym than untrained put some weight on. So I went to the gym started. Doing we
training in the stadiums stairways her good hooked on steroids. So I went to the doctor said, but I think I'm gay I dont want to be gay. Canada chemically castrated louder than anything to be nor money. What be in people's eyes. You spoke men to the doktor had spoken to anybody, know nobody it only nobody at all about it, and I did something like that. I thought I would regret for the rest of my life I left, and what for mom and dad left the house at about four o clock in the morning I used to work in a farms or had a shotgun in the house. I wanted a shotgun left without a c two more than about louis In them, for I put my mom and dad through will they must have woken up and saw that Norton, knowing that they were probably nevertheless see there always are. Never again. I overdose How does he to more than the whisky under stepped into a coma
and then my mom and dad oversee form the police as a police, helicopter health. Looking for me and my family friends and everybody searching for me and then by this time you right in the fields I was out in the mountains right above the house looking down at where I was brought up in the mountains above me, and if I hadn't into cold weather. I haven't without doubt have ended my life, because a shotgun was swaying in my chest, underneath my chin ready to pull the trigger and because I slipped into com, I couldn't do it doctor told me where the twenty minutes and had been too late to save you condemn my mom said. If you ever do anything like that again, then you take me and your dog review, because we don't want to live a life without you condemn, I sat up in bed and on cried that might really and
realized when I need to grow up referring that work cup final between australia, new zealand in front of eighty five thousand people are millions of people watching at home. Scrutinising every single decision you make and a huge amount of pressure was nothing compared to the challenge of of accepting who I wasn't in accepting who I was then save my life. I have nothing to ask and nothing to add. I just want you to tell me about it. next piece of music tunnel than he. Let it be pleased with it into the song. Really my young and again is the welsh vision, because his well somber been born. I need the song the words any worse to translate them. They say no hear you turned to the sun and the song. Will we get you through it and the song got me through the darkest times a month.
I'm not gonna stay on drawing a line has been won and I need the sun. He said knight illumines, just before we begin to. Listen to that, that you realise that your life couldn't go on like that and that you had to live much more honestly and be true. It who were, and yet still it was many years before you which come out and before indeed you spoke to the rugby authorities. Eve said They were very understanding and treated you indeed entirely. The way you should have been treated, which was with empathy and with the policy. What about your parents? When you told them?
I told my mom was the first person I told and you held for. I was brought up to be honest and here I was no line to the most important people in my life on issues affecting my life, because, unless you're happy within who you are- and you cannot excel and be the best you can be at whatever you're doing and also when you can't enjoy if you're not happy with yourself and your referee inquiry at that time is very interesting to see you had kind of stalled, you were on the brink of getting big gigs and then you, This went getting them cause you weren't quite up to scratch. You write my refereed scott immobility up another dean and I'd referee, japan against ireland out you know soccer. I give him. Ok but not well enough and then in the autumn international then after that in two thousand finally warlike fifteen games, but there was sixteen international referee saw, but what is having one game. One refuge with miss out party brain referees monitor the time rung the upper sent me.
who is performing at you're going to lose out and I thought it blown it cuz they were in. The back of my mind was what are people going to say when they find out I'm not going to be able to carry on refereeing, and people within the community know when I, when I walk up to me on the council estate to meet while I was on the couch this year, are people to return. The back of me up, if you're going to ignore me and my mom and dad me. I was lucky party brain run back to exist in a sad declares. One game come into so side, the window it so first saturday, in december, argentina, against a similar in bonn, his eddies. The referee, the game and his words from you. Don't mess it up and I went out there and I felt right if I never asked for you to sleep on you to be happy than myself. I thought a thought for weeks and weeks right. I think I have to be honest, so I went to tell my mom is very difficult, telling my mom that we both cried, but you said, nothing's changed between us. Everything will be the same and when I told her she said
did guess did he has, as I was destroyed now with all other? How did you guess? How do you know I was hiding it so well, I thought and she's alive. I did find some magazines into your bed a few years ago Yes, yes, I left it my dad, who took on a couple of days- and he found it difficult at first, not with me, but in dealing with it, but my love for him and his love for me as an cheek one, and then I went to beneficiaries in what I have told her efforts, monitor them Bobby, abandoned and the west should beauty has been hugely supportive if it wasn't for the great support that rugby is the wonderful people within rugby, the west should be union itself and all the other governing bodies world rugby as well. If it wasn't for the great support drug bees and the people within rugby. I wouldn't be able to be? Who I am today does have some music large airlines went on your seventh. Tell me about this
the sound of silence by disturbed- and it's on my play. This is the last but one song at edison to know. Before I go to the future. Every Yes, who's. He currency vision, softly list did scenes, stay. Us There was disturbed and the signs of silence nigel owens, your honesty and eloquence today has been entirely remarkable to me. You spoken about so many aspects of your life so clearly.
And I wonder that you mentioned a few minutes ago. You were talking briefly but stairway. send about bolivia and Bolivia, particularly isn t courteously insidious condition that can lying dormant for a long time and come back is all of your life, not happy unbalanced. Are those things in the past where they belong? Yes, they are The blame at only serve finished about not that long ago to go with you The time is stopped his. When my mom says me and my dad down and told us that she had consular, she was dying and those embed crying thinking to myself. Here I am healthy, but still making myself fill and suffering from bulimia, where my mom and millions of people across the world are fighting every day, just for an extra few hours with loved ones and austrian billina stopped and touch you didn't I haven't suffer from since,
we know that you are an only child and I think her referees job must surely at times be a very lonely one. You know you're right there on the pitch and you are making big decisions and their decisions that are often not appreciated by those around you. Do you ever want to come home to a family? I dont have children, probably won't or children, who knows but are very lucky. A good friend and I got a lovely partner, I got a lot of a family roma as well. I have a few godchildren, my cousins, children know what sort of fourteen fifteen seventeen eighteen they'd, always the house. So I have children around me and people around me, but you are right. It is Sometimes when I'm somewhere in the world only was sometimes when I'm home, I hope somebody owned. I think people sometimes realized prescience. How lonely my life can be sometimes, and that worries me from time to time, as you know, it's desert island discs, and the idea is that we will cost you away alone to this island twenties
on the island and think about the very best bits. What are the bits in your life the absolute they stand. I mean you have stood the sentence. You know of of sporting occasions that the world, in their tens of millions, has stopped to watch ass. Quite something that's quite inexpedient. Should it be very difficult to pinpoint the moment That means more than anything, you know go into two buckingham palace recently to pick up the m, be with my dad there and my uncle my partner, wrecking the world cup finals, She may memes of watch my first ever game. I know on television when I look back at me, life really. Am I've had something that. many a farm he would wish it a lot of their children could have and that that is a second chance. I've had a second chance, I dont think referee the world cup final as a stand alone? Could ever be most precious
but in my life, because at times I spent with someone was wonderful people in the world. My my dad and other people as well that that would be more precious to me than the referee. Gary work. Without the night, you no piece of music. Well, it really needs no explanation. I guess it doesn't matter where you come from. The color of your skin mule section, not intuitions or religious beliefs. Authorship method in life is that You are to be treated the same, nor better. No worse. or we should be able to do and what we deserve in life? Is we re to be who we are My own special creation so come take. Give me the
all the old age. more than one and it's not It's not worth it. you can see that was Gloria dinner and I am what I am so nigel. It's time for me now to give you the books, I give every castaway a copy of the bible and a copy of the complete works of shakespeare and they get to take a book of their own to the island to accompany them. What's it going to be, Screw the spoke I ever read in this respect, I am really enjoyed. I was winning the willows What time are read it again cause Ivan ready, since I was around twelve or thirteen years of age, really your luxury to our committee on west, he's gotta, be worse, two bucks. I tell you something about a cup of tea, vacuous, so many illnesses and how can endless supply of whilst emacs for you, then
I too, and if you had to save just one disk from the eight which one disk would it be, I need the song, I think lung and a gun, probably without that song and my family or friends. I wouldn't be speaking to you d, a simple as that its he was then Nigel owens. Thank you very much for letting us here desert island disks, my pleasure? Thank you
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Transcript generated on 2022-06-19.