Nigel Owens 'not surprised' by alleged homophobic slurs made by former Welsh Rugby Union colleague

Nigel Owens has said he was "not surprised" to hear that homophobic language was allegedly used by a former Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) employee to refer to him.

But the former rugby union referee told Sky News that he is confident the alleged incident "would have been dealt with" had the WRU been made aware of it.

Mr Owens, who came out as gay in 2007, says that rugby "has changed" its attitudes towards members of the LGBTQ+ community - but that there is still "a lot of work to be done".

On the specific claims of homophobic language made about him, Mr Owens said: "There are individuals or minorities within organisations, within sport, within our families, within our society, who maybe are just not nice people, who use that language derogatory to people... they think it's funny when actually it's not."

Martyn Lewis, a referee until 2016, told BBC Wales that he recalls hearing a colleague repeatedly refer to Mr Owens as "the gay boy".

The allegation came after a BBC Wales Investigates programme revealed allegations of misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia within the WRU.

The union's chief executive officer, Steve Phillips, resigned in the aftermath of the documentary.

Acting CEO Nigel Walker has apologised and acknowledged "many mistakes" were made.

'Deal with it'

An independent inquiry has been announced to look at the allegations within the WRU.

Former Court of Appeal judge Dame Anne Rafferty will lead the independent panel.

Mr Owens said the challenge for organisations is to ensure that they "deal with it (homophobic language)" and encourage people not to "stand by and say nothing".

"Knowing who this or being told who this individual is, who's no longer part of the union and hasn't been part of the union for a while now, you know it doesn't surprise me that that language was used," he said.

"I am very confident that if the WRU as an organisation would have been made aware of it... it would have been dealt with and acted on, I have no doubt.

"So the question is, if people did hear this being used in an unacceptable way then we need to encourage those people to stand up to this person and say, 'OK, you know, that's not the way we speak about people here'."

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February marks LGBT history month, an important period in the calendar according to Mr Owens.

"It's a celebration of the fact that now we are free to be who we are," he said.

"And it does help people within the LGBTQ+ community know that there are allies out there, that people do care and do support us.

"So it is I think a very important month for many different reasons."