Referee Rebecca Welch on Tuesday 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 Monday.
"It was a shock," Welch said, in a statement, 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 have I done!' But I am really excited and this what I have 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 have refereed at Wembley in the 2017 women's FA Cup Final, which will always be a top highlight. But it is good to achieve things and refereeing in the EFL on Monday will be the greatest so far," she added.
Welch has previously refereed in the National League and wants to set an example to other women. "Initially I was not 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 am extremely proud and my family's extremely proud as well. I do think it is important to show that women who are in the top 1 per cent 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," she said.
On February 9, 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. On her pathway into becoming a referee, Welch said: "I got into 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 is one of those professions where you have got to be open to developing as you do make mistakes but you have got to be the type of person to accept them and move on. That is probably why I have progressed through my career. If we do everything right we do not learn, so it is paramount for development as a match official," she added.
( With inputs from ANI )
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