International rugby referee Nigel Owens MBE to deliver keynote at BSAVA Congress 2018

4 January 2018

High-pressure decision-making, trusting your judgement and admitting to mistakes will all feature in a keynote address by international rugby referee Nigel Owens MBE at BSAVA Congress 2018.

Nigel Owens – who wanted to be a vet at school and has a lifelong love of animals – is widely regarded as one of the world’s best officials. He has amassed vast experience of dealing with difficult decisions, emotional players, a partisan audience of millions and the rigours of international travel, and remains resolutely passionate about his profession.

Born and raised in a small village in South Wales, Nigel was appointed an international referee in 2005 and went on to officiate the 2015 Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham. In June 2016 he was awarded an MBE for services to sport and continues to referee international rugby matches around the world. 

He is set to inspire and entertain Congress delegates on Thursday 5 April at the Birmingham ICC, including discussing a few challenges his audience may recognise.

“Rugby is a big part of growing up in Wales and that was no different for me,” he said.

“The buzz I get comes from having the best seat you can to watch a rugby match; being so close to the action gives you the adrenaline, the atmosphere and the feeling of being in the occasion and part of the team in one sense.

“There is huge pressure in the profession. The obvious pressure is a match with big decisions and the possibility that any mistake you make could be highlighted in the media. I suppose it’s similar to if you’re a veterinary surgeon performing a major operation; you can’t let your mind wander, worry, or think about something else because it will affect what you’re doing.

“There is also a less observable pressure on the family and me; there’s a lot of travelling involved, a commitment to training every day, watching what I eat, and having a routine like a professional athlete. I find I am away so often that inevitably I miss family occasions, weddings, friends’ stag do’s and such.

“When refereeing you sometimes have a split second to make a decision and there’s no second chance to correct it. I have to make a decision based on what I saw from where I was positioned. I deal with these situations by learning from those mistakes and reducing the chances of making them again; by thinking constructively if there is a valid point being made. I also find it useful to seek advice from someone that I trust who has relevant experience.

“Equally however, and I do feel strongly about this, there are times when you are criticised even if you have made the correct decision. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but you have to recognise situations when you have more knowledge, proficiency and experience. This is where you have to rise above it and stick to your beliefs and your ability to know what you are doing is right.”

The keynote presentation is free to all delegates and takes place after the prestigious BSAVA Awards ceremony and the President’s welcome address, which starts at 4pm on Thursday 5 April.

BSAVA President John Chitty said: “I am delighted to welcome Nigel Owens to share the highs and lows of his career in rugby refereeing at Congress, and to share his experiences of split-second decision-making in high-pressure situations.

“These are similar to the decisions that vets and nurses need to make during their working days, especially in emergency situations. There is a lot for us to learn which will help us enjoy our working lives much more. Our vision is to help support the whole small animal profession in enjoying their roles and achieve a better and more healthy work-life balance.”

The 61st annual BSAVA Congress takes place at the Birmingham ICC and Arena Birmingham from 5-8 April. Congress delivers a diverse programme of more than 450 lectures and practical sessions from the world’s leading veterinary speakers, an extensive exhibition featuring the latest technological innovations, consumables and services, the annual BSAVA Awards honouring the profession’s outstanding individuals, and a full social programme including Movie Night on Thursday and V18 festival on Saturday evening. There is also a new non-clinical stream on Sunday – Beyond the Clinics.