Super League referee James Child opens up on being gay and reveals vile homophobic abuse

by Maggie Baska (

Referee James Child during the Super League match between Wakefield Wildcats and Castleford Tigers at Etihad Stadium on 18 May 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Rugby Super League referee James Child has spoken publicly about his sexuality for the first time and the vile homophobic abuse he encountered in his career.

Child, who was appointed a Super League referee by the Rugby Football League in 2010, shared that he has always been open about his sexuality with family, friends, and colleagues. But he said he didn’t “necessarily broadcast” the fact that he was gay.

He told the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast that he’s “pretty open about the fact I have a male partner” on social media. Child said: “I don’t necessarily broadcast it but just live my life normally, and that’s the way I’ve chosen to deal with it up until now.

And in many ways, my sexuality and my job are completely separate, and it’s irrelevant.”

Child explained that “it doesn’t matter whether I’m gay or straight” when he’s on a pitch and makes a call. “What matters is whether the decision is right or wrong,” he said.

James Child has received homophobic abuse because of his career

Like any sporting official, Child gets plenty of abuse, including some of a homophobic nature. He said: “I do receive my fair share, including a couple of death threats over the past few years that have been referred to the police.”

He said, “one if not two” of these threats were homophobic. Child said he also received homophobic abuse during games that were “specifically directed” at him.

“By me speaking about this publicly, there can’t then be a situation where somebody is homophobic but denies knowing I’m gay,” he said.

Child said he’s not “denying people their opportunity” to “shout at me as a referee”. But he said “we don’t need that level of personalization” when individuals “start bringing religion or disability or sexual orientation” into it.

Child added: “If this will help educate people and get us all to be a little more respectful to each other, then that’s great.”

He said his sexuality is “just part of who I am”, and that might be why “it took me so long to come to terms with it”.