Rebecca Welch made history earlier today, Tuesday 30 March, by becoming the first female referee to be appointed to a game in the English Football League (EFL).
The highest-ranking female referee in English football will take charge of the Sky Bet League Two meeting between Harrogate Town and Port Vale on Easter Monday.
Rebecca shared her knowledge with Brentford FC Community Sports Trust webinar participants last month.
During a session aimed at young people between the ages of six and 19, Rebecca told her football story, which included taking charge of both the Vitality Women’s FA Cup Final and FA Women’s Community Shield at Wembley in 2020. She was, earlier this season, promoted to UEFA’s elite category of female referees. Rebecca has been selected for Monday’s League Two clash after an ongoing review of her performances this season and her appointment has been approved by referee chiefs Mike Riley and Mike Jones.
Brentford midfield player Christian Nørgaard and forward Tariqe Fosu, along with Brentford WFC player Rabia Azam, are among those to have also taken part in the Trust’s webinar programme. Tom Perryman, from the Club's Strength and Conditioning team, has also done a session, as has Sky Bet Championship Assistant Referee Akil Howson.
The sessions form part of the Trust's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with residents asked to stay at home. The #BeeInTheTeam campaign has engaged with 550 unique participants since January, with more than 15 weekly sessions delivered.
Speaking about her involvement in the Insights on Refereeing Webinar, Rebecca said: “Refereeing was never planned! I didn’t become a referee until I was 27. I never really had a role model, my role models would have been my parents, so I think that’s why it’s so important that females in sport go out there and deliver sessions such as this one; young girls coming through now need to have someone to look up to.
“My aim of the session wasn’t to make everyone want to be a referee, I just wanted the participants to be able to see the game from a referee’s point of view and give them some background as to how we operate. A lot of people are unaware of how our performance is critiqued and scored.
“The progress that has been made in the women’s game over the past ten years has been brilliant – if someone had told me a decade ago that there’d be a full, professional women’s league I’d have laughed at them – but we’ve got to keep building because if you stand still with anything you don’t improve and you don’t move forward. The opportunities are there now for young girls to get into sport and make a career out of it.”
Lee Doyle, Chief Executive of Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, added: “From physical activity to mental resilience, we were really keen on providing connectivity and a variety of activities during lockdown. We brought what we’d learnt during lockdown one and two together to make #BeeInTheTeam a cohesive programme. This programme kept the hope going; it kept our participants involved and engaged during a difficult period.”
To find out more about Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and the work done in our local community, click here.