Rebecca Welch is set to make history next week after becoming the first woman to referee a game in the English Football League.
The 37-year-old from Washington in the northeast will take on the duel between Harrogate and Port Vale in the second division on Easter Monday.
It continues its rise through the reigning ranks that began only 10 years ago.
Born on December 1, 1983, Welch has played soccer since childhood but did not pick up the whistle until he was 27 after being told to do so by a friend.
“I played football and didn’t even think about being a referee until one of my really good referee friends was us,” she said in a recent interview. “I spent the whole game telling her how to do her job!
“Her answer was, ‘If you think it’s that easy, give it a try.’ That’s how it happened and 10 years later I’m here. “
She qualified as an official with the Durham County FA and began as a referee in university football and in the Sunday leagues in Sunderland.
She is now one of the elite referees and is on FIFA’s international list. In the women’s game, she was involved in internationals, Champions League games and Super League games for women. She hopes to get a selection for the panels at Euro 2022 and the 2023 World Cup.
She has the rare honor of having whistled the women’s FA Cup final twice, first in 2017 and then last year. Normal football association rules would prevent this from happening, but an exception has been made due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the men, she previously whistled in the National League.