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Match Officials

Rebecca Welch becomes first female referee appointed to EFL match

Welch will take charge of Harrogate Town v Port Vale on Easter Monday

30 March 2021

Referee Rebecca Welch has become the first female referee to be appointed to an EFL match.

The Washington-based official, who has refereed internationally and in the Women's Super League, will make history when she takes charge of Harrogate Town's fixture against Port Vale on Easter Monday. 

"It was a shock," said Welch when asked about her appointment.

"I was on my way back from a game and I got a phone call from Mike Jones (PGMOL National Group Director) and my initial response was 'oh, what’ve I done!'

"But I’m really excited and this what I’ve been working towards and to be given this opportunity to work in the EFL is amazing for me.

"This is the biggest achievement of my career. I’ve refereed at Wembley in the 2017 women’s FA Cup Final, which will always be a top highlight. But it’s good to achieve things and refereeing in the EFL on Monday will be the greatest so far.”

Welch has previously refereed in the National League and wants to set an example to other women who are thinking about taking up the whistle. 

"Initially I wasn’t really aware of being appointed as the first female referee. I was just given the appointment and I was over the moon but when you kind of reflect on it you think you’re the first woman ever to do this, so I’m extremely proud and my family’s extremely proud as well.

"I do think it’s important to show that women who are in the top 1% of their category can proceed to the next level so it definitely makes others down the period look up and know that they can achieve the same.

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

"I’m really proud of it because my journey as a referee I started with not really having any aspirations to be doing things like this interview.

"In the last 10 years I’ve put a lot of hard work and commitment in and I’ve reaped the rewards from that by getting promoted. But I’d never seen myself as a trailblazer until the last year where I’ve started to accept it because I think it’s important that people who are fortunate enough to be in my position or similar can show people that this can be done."

On 9 February 2010, Amy Fearn became the first woman to referee an English Football League match when she took charge of the last 20 minutes of Coventry City’s contest against Nottingham Forest after an injury to an official. 

However, Welch will become the first female referee appointed to an EFL fixture this weekend.

Speaking about her pathway in to becoming a referee, Welch added: "I got in to refereeing through a good friend of mine who was a referee but I never really understood why anyone would want to take that route.

"But I did my time and did the courses and it seems to be a bit of a blur over the last 10 years. There have been challenges like in any job, but the good days certainly outweigh the bad.

"It’s one of those professions where you’ve got to be open to developing as you do make mistakes but you’ve got to be the type of person to accept them and move on. That’s probably why I’ve progressed through my career. If we do everything right we don’t learn, so it’s paramount for development as a match official.

"My journey through promotion has been a whirlwind over the past 10 years. I feel like it has gone quick and I was working for the NHS until a couple of years ago before I decided to take a career break so I could focus on football and put that full commitment in to it.

"I didn’t want to be sat there 10 years after retiring not putting the full commitment in to it. Hopefully when I do retire I will return back to my job with the NHS as I loved it."

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