James Child

James Child Former Professional Rugby League Referee | DE&I Consultant | Keynote Speaker


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Keynote Speaker

James Child 2024 Speech Titles James Child 2024 Speech Titles

  • Why I started refereeing
  • My refereeing career, including stories of my highs and lows
  • How I learned to be mentally resilient and coped with a pressured job and a challenging work environment
  • Growing up & accepting being gay
  • Some history/stats around LGBT history/Pride month & why it remains important to continue to celebrate such events and talk openly about our sexuality
  • My experiences as a gay man in sport – the good and the bad
  • Importance of public representation & allyship

James Child is a history-maker.One of rugby league’s most experienced officials, he took control of more than 300 Super League games - and refereed both the 2022 Challenge Cup Final and the 2017 Super League Grand Final.James accomplished the rare feat of officiating at four consecutive World Cups - including as touch judge for both the 2008 and 2013 finals - and in 2021, he became the UK’s first openly gay rugby league referee when he opened up about his sexuality on the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast. In 2022, James also appeared in a Pride edition of the long running BBC panel show, Question of Sport.For seventeen years, James combined his refereeing career with his work as a chartered surveyor at Leeds City Council; and after hanging up the whistle in 2022, he joined the world’s largest commercial real estate company CBRE.A passionate advocate for inclusion, James offers a rare and fascinating insight into the highs and lows of life as a professional referee - including how the skills he learned about performing under pressure at the highest levels can be applied to other situations.He speaks with openness and honesty about his own journey with his sexuality, and how his willingness to open up about being gay squared with the ‘macho’ environment of professional sport.

James Child is ready to inspire your teams!
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James Child testimonials

Noelle Gumm

Vice President, Global HR Operations

“James’s story was inspirational. It’s awesome that he bravely went public to help clear a path (nobody should have to), but I’m most inspired by his self-awareness, accountability for mistakes and desire to improve. Too rare today.”



“James was a fantastic speaker and is a very special person. His openness, self-reflection and resilience were evident as he very willingly shared his story. James’ sexual orientation was almost an aside as he explained his journey, sharing challenges and successes along the way, and how he has used both platforms on which to grow and build strength.”

Gareth Jones

National Crime Agency

"The National Crime Agency marked the start of LGBT History Month on 1 February with a talk to officers from James. The NCA is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive culture in which individuals can be themselves and give of their best and it was a pleasure to listen to James' insight on decision-making, resilience, leadership and the power of role models and allyship which all resonated with officers."

Leeds City Council

Kat, LGBT+ Staff Network Chair

"James co-ordinated and spoke at a team event which was overwhelmingly well received and generated a lot of reflection from the attendees. James speaks clearly and powerfully about his lived experience, not shying away from the challenging experiences in his professional career but also celebrating the positives in an accessible and engaging way. Genuinely fascinating, thoughtful and wonderful."


Chairman, Rochdale Referees Association

"In an engaging and interactive presentation to our members, James touched upon all aspects about being an elite level match official and talked through a wide variety of thought-provoking situations both on and off the field of play. It was fascinating to hear James review and explain his rationale for some crucial season-defining decisions from games he had been involved in as well as how he dealt with abuse from fans on social media platforms in the aftermath of matches. James’s experience of working alongside video assistant referees was of particular interest to our members and very revealing to see how the role of this additional official in rugby differs to how it is performed in football. Such was the impact made by James, he was voted Speaker of the Year in 2022."


Director, eCoach

"James was a very insightful and knowledgeable speaker. He was able to put people at ease and clearly address the key aims of the session in a thoughtful and warm way."

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