Rebecca Welch to become first female Premier League referee in history

The festive fixtures will also serve as significant milestones for English football.

The Premier League is set to appoint its first female referee in history this month as English Football League official Rebecca Welch will take charge in the top flight for the very first time.

Rebecca Welch has been refereeing in the EFL since 2021, having first officiated a League Two match between Harrogate Town and Port Vale before working her way up the football pyramid.

Now, as per an announcement by the Premier League, the 40-year-old will be overseeing Fulham vs Burnley on Saturday, December 23, becoming the first woman to ever be appointed as the first official for a first-division game.

Welch also became the first female to referee an FA Cup fixture back in January 2022 and was the first woman to serve as a fourth official Welch was also appointed as the fourth official for Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Fulham this past November.

Regularly operating in the WSL and having been part of the officiating team for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, Welch has been growing a reputation across the beautiful game and it seems as though it was only a matter of time before she was assigned to a Premier League round.

Refereeing colleague Sam Allison is also set to become the first Black official to take charge of a Prem game in over a decade and a half on Boxing Day when Sheffield United take on Luton Town, the last being Uriah Rennie in a game between Liverpool and Spurs back in May 2008.

The lack of diversity, both in gender and race, in refereeing seen throughout English football has remained a pressing issue among many fans and advocates within the sport for years and now this latest announcement comes as a welcome step in the right direction.

Speaking on the decision this Thursday, refereeing veteran and PGMOL chief Howard Webb said the league has been attempting to “fast-tracking talented officials” through their training programme and labelled both of the appointments as “really well deserved”.

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Unfortunately, with the way latent prejudices still reside in the modern game, Welch has never had it easy on her journey to this historic appointment, as it was only last month that two young male fans were arrested for ‘misogynistic chanting’ during Birmingham home match against Sheffield Wednesday.

While sexism and misogyny in sport and life, in general, are obviously outdated attitudes, it was concerning to see that the two individuals were just 17 years old and that there’s still work to be done in educating people and rooting out those underlying issues.

Nevertheless, having qualified and well-respected officials like Welch and Allison become prominent figures, role models and leading examples in football will do wonders for the future of representation equality throughout the sporting world.

Featured Images — Brentford FC/Premier League
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