Rebecca Welch to become Premier League’s first female referee

Rebecca Welch will become the first female referee for a Premier League fixture when she officiates Fulham’s match against Burnley on 23 December.

Welch, 40, began refereeing in 2010, and in January became the first woman to referee a men’s Championship game.

Sam Allison will also take charge of a top-flight match in December, making him the Premier League’s first black referee for 15 years.

He will oversee Sheffield United’s match against Luton on 26 December.

Uriah Rennie – the league’s last black referee – retired from officiating in English football’s top four divisions in 2009. The EFL’s last non-white referee – Jarnail Singh – retired in 2010.

“These are pivotal moments for Rebecca and Sam, who are two officials of real quality,” referees’ chief Howard Webb told BBC Sport.

“They deserve their opportunity.”

In July, the Football Association laid out plans to recruit 50% more referees from “historically under-represented” backgrounds by 2026, targeting an increase of 1,000 women referees and 1,000 black or Asian referees at all levels of football in three years.

Currently, 8% of officials are of black or Asian ethnicity, but only 3% in professional football. No black or Asian referee has taken charge of a Premier League game since Rennie’s final match in 2008.

Former firefighter Allison, who has previously spoken about encouraging more officials from under-represented backgrounds, was promoted to the Football League in 2020 and was moved up to the Championship earlier this year.

Welch has also refereed in the Championship this year, as well as taking charge of Women’s Super League and Women’s Champions League matches and refereeing at the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in the summer.

She was the first woman to take charge of an FA Cup third-round tie in 2022 after being added to the EFL’s national list for men’s football, which oversees both League One and League Two fixtures.

Welch made history in November when she became the first woman to be involved in the Premier League in a refereeing capacity, taking up the role of fourth official when Manchester United beat Fulham 1-0 at Craven Cottage.

“Rebecca has been exposed to some big games and I am really confident she will deliver a game in the Premier League and be a really good model for women and girls to think refereeing is for them,” said Webb.

“Sam deserves his chance as well. Maybe that will serve as a role model for other young people who maybe previously thought refereeing might not be for them.

“Hopefully they can show that refereeing can be for anybody – if you have the love of the game and the qualities required, you can make it to the very top.”

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