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13th Feb 2017

Nigel Owens perfectly defused awkward situation with fan who made unfortunate remark

Owens was in disguise at the time

Ben Kiely

You never know who’s listening.

Owens recently appeared on the James O’Brien’s LBC Radio show to discuss homophobia in sport. Although they were tackling a serious issue, Owens recounted a humorous anecdote involving a fan that illustrated the lighter side of the topic.

The Welshman was attending a Scarlets match while wearing a disguise when the incident happened. He undertook this measure to lower the risk of being recognised, which as he pointed out, doesn’t always work out well for referees attending games.

“I’m sitting there with a hoodie on my head. The referee penalises the Scarlets, and somebody in the crowd shouted out, ‘Oh here we go, another bent referee again.’ meaning the term ‘bent’ as in a cheat or someone who’s (biased) one way and not the other, not in the sexuality way.”

Immediately after that, Owens heard another voice from the crowd fire abuse towards him specifically, although they clearly didn’t realise that he was sitting just a few metres away.

“After he shouted that, somebody sitting a couple of seats further on shouts out, ‘Oh no, that’s Nigel Owens, he’s not reffing tonight.'”

Owens, who’s openly gay, figured the fan did not mean to use the term as a homophobic slur and saw the funny side of his unfortunate choice of words. However, it didn’t take long before some of the surrounding fans spotted him and word traveled to the man who made the remark.

“I knew by the way he said that he didn’t mean it in any derogatory way, he was just trying to be funny. I’ve got to say, I found it funny myself – I giggled to myself.”

“Within a couple of seconds, people started to realise I was sitting in the crowd. This guy, his face went red. He turned around and said,’Oh Nigel, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean it in a homophobic or a nasty way at all.'”

He realised that an honest mistake had been made, although he wasn’t prepared to let him get away with the comment about his refereeing ability. He spared the man’s blushes with a zinger that sparked a giggle of relief from everyone within earshot.

“I said, ‘I know you didn’t… and by the way, I may be bent off the field, but I’m certainly not bent on it.’ Everybody laughed, he shook my hand and we went on from there.”

The man came over to Owens after the game to offer his apologies again. Opting for a more serious tone this time, Owens reiterated that he took zero offence, but told the man to learn from the situation to choose his words more carefully in future when blurting things out in public.

Catch up with this week’s episode of 888sport Football Friday Live


Nigel Owens