Rebecca Welch will become the first woman to referee a Premier League game when she takes charge of Fulham v Burnley on 23 December.
On 26 December Sam Allison will also make history as the first black referee to officiate a Premier League game in 15 years when he officiates Sheffield United v Luton Town. Welch and Allison both belong to the development group of officials fast-tracked by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) to help improve the quality of refereeing in the four top divisions in England. Both have been refereeing in the Championship this season with Welch also acting as fourth official in the Premier League.
Howard Webb, the chief refereeing officer at PGMOL said “Rebecca and Sam were part of the development group that was created last year. Credit to them they have delivered good performances in the Championship this season and deserve their opportunities due to their quality and the talent that they have. Of course it’s significant in terms of Rebecca being the first female to take the whistle in the Premier League … and Sam being the first black referee in the Premier League since Uriah Rennie back in 2008. The profile of the game[s] will serve as a role model for others in under-represented communities and that is undoubtedly a positive.We need greater diversity because undoubtedly there is quality in all communities and previously for whatever reason we have not been able to bring people through from those groups and now it’s happening at last thankfully.”
Welch was the first woman to referee in the Championship in 2021 and the FA Cup in 2022 however, she was the target of abuse with two teenagers arrested following the Birmingham City v Sheffield Wednesday game.
Image credit: Sven Beyrich (El Loko Foto), 2019