Referee chiefs have assigned Rebecca Welch to officiate an upcoming League Two match from the start, making her the first woman to do so in England.
History will be made on Monday as Rebecca Welch will become the first woman to referee a match from start to finish for a League Two game between Harrogate Town and Port Vale.
The first and last woman to ever referee a match in England was in 2010, when Amy Fearn came on as a second-half substitute to replace an injured Tony Bates during a clash in the Championship.
How she got here
Welch is currently the highest ranking female referee in England, which is probably what persuaded referee chiefs Mike Jones and Mike Riley to appoint her.
Recently, she was appointed by UEFA to their elite category of officials. She has been refereeing in the National League, the fifth highest league in England, for the past three years. As well, she took charge of the women’s FA Cup final at Wembley last year.
After 11 years of being a referee, Welch said that she never could have imagined she’d be officiating a EFL match, but says her faith in the system has led her here. She told Sky Sports:
I'm still trying to let it sink in. I got the news on Saturday and haven't come back down to earth yet. I'm very fortunate to have been given this opportunity and I'm really excited about it.
If not her, Welch said she believes there will be a woman refereeing a Premier League match within the next ten to 15 years.
A trailblazing few
Welch joins a small but growing list of women that have officiated men’s football at the highest level. In England, there was Fearn before her and also Sian Massey-Ellis, an assistant referee in the Premier League.
An all female team led by Edina Alves Batista oversaw matches during the Club World Cup in February. As well, Stéphanie Frappart and Kateryna Monzul became the first female match officials in charge of World Cup qualifying games earlier this month.