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Rebecca Welch | first female appointed to referee English league match

Rebecca Welch hopes she can inspire other women when she takes charge of her first English Footba...



Rebecca Welch | first female a...
Soccer

Rebecca Welch | first female appointed to referee English league match

Rebecca Welch hopes she can inspire other women when she takes charge of her first English Football League game.

The highest-ranking female referee in English football has been assigned to the League Two clash between Harrogate Town and Port Vale this Monday, the first time that a woman has been appointed to a match as an EFL referee.

Eleven years ago Amy Fearn became the first woman to referee an EFL game when she replaced injured match official Tony Bates in a Championship match between Coventry and Nottingham Forest and Welch hopes that this next step will give other women the belief they can achieve similar.

"I do think it’s important to show that women who are in the top one percent of their category can proceed to the next level so it definitely makes others down the pyramid look up and know that they can achieve the same," Welch told Sky Sports News.

"It shows that there is a real opportunity to young girls who are wondering if they are to take the whistle or are already referees they can aspire to be an EFL referee or like Sian Massey-Ellis operating in the Premier League."

Massey-Ellis has been an assistant referee in the Premier League for over a decade and is listed with FIFA and has officiated at the Women's World Cup, Women's Champions Legaue, and the UEFA Europa League.

Welch cites her as a huge influence on her career.

"Sian's an absolute icon in refereeing and has paved the way for females, not just in England but all over Europe, to think about taking up the whistle," she said.

"To have her around a dressing room, as one of my friends, is really important. The experience that Sian has is invaluable."

Welch was selected the match on Monday after an ongoing review of her performances in the National League and the appointment was approved by the Professional Game Match Officials chiefs Mike Riley and Mike Jones.

She admits she is still very excited after hearing the news.

"I am still kind of trying to let it sink in at the minute," Welch said.

"I got the news on Saturday and still haven’t come back down to earth. It’s very exciting, it is really good for me and the next steps of my career. I am very fortunate to be given this opportunity and really excited.

"My dad is my biggest fan so pre-Covid he came to every single game – he was over the moon. My mum doesn’t know a lot about football so she is excited but I don’t think she knows why she is excited. They are really proud so that is really nice."

Historic moment | Stéphanie Frappart, the first woman to referee a major European men’s game

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English League Two Harrogate Town Port Vale Rebecca Welch