Super League referee James Child has spoken publicly for the first time about his sexuality, and the homophobic abuse he has received which has included death threats.
In an interview with the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast, Child has stressed that this is not his ‘coming out’ story, with his family, friends and refereeing colleagues all aware that he’s gay.
But he has spoken about what life has been life for him as a leading sport official and the abuse that has involved.
Child told the BBC: “The way I’ve lived my life on social media, I’m pretty open about the fact I have a male partner.
“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.
“When I run out there and make a decision, it doesn’t matter whether I’m gay or straight. What matters is whether the decision is right or wrong.”
Child, 37, has been a Super League match official since 2010 and took charge of the Grand Final in 2017 at Old Trafford.
He says his desire to talk about his sexuality has been driven by a number of factors including the homophobic abuse he has received in recent years.
Child 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.
“I’m not saying that’s all to do with my sexuality, but I certainly think one, if not two of those, were homophobic.
“Why now or why speak about it at all? In some respects when I have received homophobic abuse at games, it’s specifically directed at me, it’s not directed at the other officials or some of the players.
“I do hear the comments occasionally, particularly when you’re touch-judging and close to the crowd. You tend to hear the individual comments a little bit more.
“By me speaking about this publicly, there can’t then be a situation where somebody is homophobic, but denies knowing I’m gay.
“I’m not denying people their opportunity to go to a game and shout at me as a referee. By all means, do it! Carry on doing it! I’m used to it!
“But when you start bringing religion or disability or sexual orientation into it, we don’t need that level of personalisation.
“If this will help educate people and get us all to be a little more respectful to each other, then that’s great.”