Premier League names Rebecca Welch as first female referee

Rebecca Welch has been named the English Premier League’s first female referee.

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited made the announcement on the league’s website on Thursday.

On Saturday, December 23, Fulham will face Burnley in her first official encounter as a central referee.

Welch, a native of Washington, began her career as a referee in 2010 while working for the National Health Service. She then left the military to devote her entire time to her work as a referee.

She became the first woman to be selected as an EFL referee in 2021, when she officiated a League Two match between Harrogate Town and Port Vale.

She has also refereed high-profile Women’s Super League matches, and she was the referee for both the 2017 and 2020 Women’s FA Cup finals at Wembley Stadium.

She was added to FIFA’s Elite List of International Match Officials in December 2020, and she will be in charge of matches at the 2022 UEFA Women’s European Championship and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Welch, who is from Washington in Tyne and Wear, was the first woman to referee Championship and FA Cup third-round matches, and she became the first woman to act as fourth official in a Premier League match last month when she officiated the match between Fulham and Manchester United.

“I played football and didn’t even think about refereeing until one of my really good friends, who is a referee, refereed us,” Welch said in an interview with the Independent.

“I spent the whole game telling her how to do her job! Her response was, ‘If you think it’s that easy, give it a go.’ That’s how it happened and 10 years later here I am.”

Also, POGMOL disclosed that Sam Allison will become the first black referee in the league since Uriah Rennie, who officiated in the competition for 11 years until 2008.

Allison, 42, will be in charge of the match between Sheffield United and Luton Town on Boxing Day – Tuesday, December 26.

Allison, who had worked as a firefighter, enjoyed a successful playing career before turning his attention to refereeing.

Having started his journey with Swindon Town, Allison moved on to Bristol City, AFC Bournemouth and Exeter City, even making a handful of appearances for England schoolboys and representing Great Britain.

After the introduction of the Elite Referee Development Plan, Allison started officiating on a full-time basis.

Following his promotion in 2020, he became the third black referee to officiate in the EFL, following in the footsteps of Rennie and Trevor Parkes. He has taken charge of over 100 matches in the EFL.

Speaking in March, he said, “I love football so much; it’s in my blood and it’s innate. I’d do anything to be involved in the game. Unfortunately, I didn’t reach the pinnacles as a football player but hopefully one day I can do it as a referee.”

Sam’s first taste of Premier League action came in October 2022, when he was the fourth official in the fixture between Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea.

He was promoted to officiate in the Championship for the 2023/24 season.

The pair will be the fourth and fifth referees from PGMOL’s Select Group 2 to take charge of a Premier League fixture this season, following in the footsteps of Sam Barrott, Bobby Madley and Josh Smith.


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