Ex-Super League referee James Child speaks out on how coming out as gay impacted his rugby league career

FORMER SUPER LEAGUE referee James Child has revealed how coming out as gay affected his rugby league officiating career.

In 2021 Child became the first Super League referee to come out – a decision which the now retired official didn’t take lightly.

“I wrestled with it for such a long time and went through different emotions,” Child told the BBC LGBT+ Sport Podcast

“You know – ‘it’s my own private issue, I shouldn’t need to do it’.

“But my decision was helped by the [BBC LGBT Sport] podcast. I listened to some of the back catalogue and struck up a conversation with some of the people who had been on it about what the fallout had been.

“Once I’d collected them and formed an opinion, I decided to do it.”

Child himself was taken aback by how much of an impression the decision made.

“I thought it would get some traction, but I didn’t anticipate the impact it had,” Child continued.

“To receive messages from across the game was tremendous, and it shows the impact of people being open and talking about their sexuality.

“One or two reached out to me and I was able to have conversations with them, and to this day I still am in contact with people about their struggles or whether coming out is something they should do.

“It certainly would have helped me as a young boy growing up to see somebody out in rugby league circles – a sport that I had enjoyed and admired, but probably felt that I never would be able to play a part in.”

The former referee, who now works full-time as a chartered surveyor, feels that his decision actually had an influence on the players on the rugby league field too.

“It was just tremendously positive and, in many ways, life just carried on as normal.

“Maybe I imagined it, but I felt I got a bit more respect from players on the field. Perhaps I was just a little more comfortable in myself, although I don’t think I changed!”

Child now wants to use his own experience to help others that may be in his situation.

“I’m more than happy to share my own experiences, and perhaps provide some comfort and reassurance to people.

“Talk to your nearest and dearest, and to others who have been on the podcast – and I’d encourage anyone who is contemplating it to think about it, and then, why not?”