Rebecca Welch, first woman to referee a Premier League match

By putting the whistle to her lips, and recording the start of the game between Fulham and Burnley, Saturday December 23, Rebecca Welch made history

Rebecca Welch, first woman to referee a Premier League match

By putting the whistle to her lips, and recording the start of the game between Fulham and Burnley, Saturday December 23, Rebecca Welch made history. Applauded by a number of supporters, as she emerged from the corridor of Craven Cottage - Fulham's stadium, in the southwest suburbs of London - at the head of the 22 players in the game, the "lady in black" is became the first woman to referee a Premier League match.

“A historic breakthrough”, as the English league called it, but anything but a Christmas present for this 40-year-old Briton. The one who started refereeing in 2010 quickly rose through the ranks: in 2021, she became the first woman to officiate a fourth division match, and has continued to progress since. Like Stéphanie Frappart in France, Rebecca Welch erased the “records” across the Channel one by one, before holding the whistle in the Premier League this Christmas Eve.

“Pioneer”

“I am really confident that she will deliver a good match and will be a great example for women and girls who think that refereeing is for them when, until now, that was not the case,” he said. underlined Howard Webb, who heads the English referees, when appointing Rebecca Welch. For the BBC, the referee from Tyne and Wear, in the north-east of England, is a “pioneer, history-maker” and a “role model”.

If football was born in England, it was on the other side of the Channel that women's refereeing took hold – and where the glass ceiling exploded. Becoming in 2022 the first woman to hold the whistle during a World Cup match, Stéphanie Frappart has long been the pioneer – with the German Bibiana Steinhaus, who officiated her first Bundesliga match, the German championship, in 2017 “Since 2019, the year I refereed the final of the European Super Cup, women referees in the men's world have been part of the football landscape,” assured the Frenchwoman, interviewed in September 2022, shortly after her nomination for the World Cup in Qatar.

When he was on the bench of Paris Saint-Germain (between 2021 and 2022), the Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino met Stéphanie Frappart. “She was already officiating and was really very good,” the current Chelsea coach underlined during the week at a press conference. I think we need to open our minds and make sure people care about quality above all else. » Winner at Fulham (2-0), Saturday, Burnley, last in the Premier League before the match, should remember their victory more than the fact of having been refereed by Rebecca Welch, who made history in England one evening in December 2023.