Rebecca Welch made history on Saturday as the first woman to referee a Premier League fixture. The 40-year-old officiated the match between Fulham and Burnley at Craven Cottage. Welch, who became a referee in 2010 and transitioned to a full-time official in 2019, previously made history in January as the first woman to referee a men's Championship fixture.
Her notable achievements include being the first woman to officiate an FA Cup third-round tie in 2022 and earning a place on Fifa's elite list of international match officials in December 2020.
Welch, originally from Washington in Tyne and Wear, has been a prominent figure in English officials' ranks, notably in the Women's Super League and the Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Referees' chief Howard Webb praised Welch's leadership in officiating and highlighted her participation in significant international tournaments, emphasizing her positive impact on encouraging women and girls to consider refereeing as a viable path.
Welch's return to Craven Cottage marked another milestone in her career, as she previously served as the fourth official during a Premier League match between Fulham and Manchester United.
Her recognition extends to the Football Association's efforts to increase diversity among referees, aligning with their goal to recruit 50% more officials from historically under-represented backgrounds by 2026.
This initiative aims for a substantial increase in the number of women and individuals from Black or Asian backgrounds officiating at all levels of football in the next three years.