Super League referee James Child has expressed his delight with the reaction to his public revelations over his sexuality.
Child, 37, addressed the subject for the first time on the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast in which he revealed he has been the target of death threats and homophobic abuse.
The Yorkshireman, who began refereeing in Super League in 2009 and has been on the Rugby Football League’s elite panel for the last 11 years, says he broke his silence in an effort to educate people and encourage respect and has been pleased by the initial response.
Child said: “I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I’m delighted generally speaking that it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think the worst I’ve seen is indifference, which is absolutely fine.
“I get the view when people say it’s irrelevant because it is irrelevant in many ways. It’s all about what I do on the field.
“I think the message has been pretty well received and I’m happy about that.”
🗣️ "If this helps educate others, that's great".
He's one of the sport's top officials.
And now, Super League referee James Child has become the most high-profile man in rugby league to open up about the fact he's gay.
— Jack Murley (@jack_murley) February 25, 2021
Child, who has a male partner, told the podcast he came out to his fellow referees about 10 years ago but resisted calls to go public until now.
He said he recently began working on the RFL’s inclusion and diversity working group and that formed part of the reason for his decision to publicly speak out.
Child said: “Frankly it’s no-one’s business except my own. People don’t have to make an announcement that they’re straight and in some ways I shot myself in the foot but it took a long time for me to be comfortable with my own skin.
“I had a couple of approaches in the past and didn’t necessarily want to do it at that time. But it shouldn’t have been a big revelation and I don’t think for most people it will have been.”
Welsh rugby union referee Nigel Owens, ex-Wakefield prop Keegan Hirst and former dual-code winger Gareth Thomas have all publicly expressed their sexual orientation and Child is hoping his comments will encourage more sports people to come out.
Child is also hoping he will be treated fairly by fans when they return to games later in the year.
He said: “I guess the proof of the pudding will be when I go and do a game and make a decision people don’t like.
“The reaction today was really, really encouraging and I’m confident that when crowds are back in, it shouldn’t be an issue and sure it won’t be. That’s pretty much what I wanted.”