Rebecca Welch will make history today by becoming the first female fourth official to be involved in a Premier League match.
The 39-year-old has been selected for Manchester United’s Saturday lunchtime clash at Fulham – live on talkSPORT.
Welch became the first woman to referee an EFL match when she took charge of a League Two clash between Harrogate and Port Vale in April 2021.
Wendy Toms became the first woman to be appointed as a top-flight assistant referee in 1997 before Sian Massey-Ellis and Natalie Aspinall were handed their opportunities more recently.
Former player Welch, who qualified as an official through the Durham County FA, ventured into officiating at the age of 27 after being encouraged to do so by a friend.
She went on to referee in university football and in Sunday league games in Sunderland before going on to combine the role with an administrative job with the NHS.
Welch is a regular in the Women’s Super League and was a part of the officiating team at this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
She became the first woman to referee a men’s Championship match earlier this year when she took charge of Birmingham’s game with Preston in January.
Welch also officiated Birmingham’s FA Cup clash against Plymouth in the same month.
In doing so, she became the first female to referee in a third-round tie.
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited group (PGMOL) led by chief refereeing officer Howard Webb has been determined to improve diversity in the professional game.
In January, Bhupinder Singh Gill became the the first Sikh-Punjabi to officiate in the Premier League, when selected as assistant referee for Southampton vs Nottingham Forest.
Speaking ahead of Harrogate Town’s 2-0 defeat to Port Vale in 2021, Welch said that it was important to show that women can proceed to the next level.
Speaking to The Guardian, Welch said: “I’m really excited and this is what I’ve been working towards. 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. To be given this opportunity to work in the EFL is amazing for me.
“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,’ she said.
“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 pyramid look up and know that they can achieve the same.”