Female Premier League referee makes history by becoming first to receive hall of fame honour

There has been a historic inductee into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame.
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Rebecca Welch is to be inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame just months after becoming the first female referee to take charge of a Premier League fixture.

The 40-year-old official has taken a rapid rise up the pyramid after beginning her career overseeing games in Sunday League football and the Ebac Northern League, the ninth tier of the English game. After making her way through the leagues, Welch became the first woman to be appointed as lead official in an EFL game in 2021 when she was in the middle for a game between League Two rivals Harrogate Town and Port Vale.

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Welch then made another historic step when she became the first woman to take charge of a Championship fixture as she officiated Birmingham City's home game with Preston North End in January 2023 before stepping into the Premier League for Burnley's 2-0 win against Fulham in December.

Clarets manager Vincent Kompany praised Welch for her achievement in the aftermath of the game, saying: “I wanted to congratulate her because aside from the performance it’s a big moment. And I said when you’re in the game it’s not about the ref, it’s about the players, not about the coach. But after the game it’s fair to say that is a milestone moment and may there be many more. The best thing will always be when people are judged on merit but you have to have a first. Well done, I am happy to be a part of this moment.”

Welch, who was added to FIFA's elite list of international match officials in December 2020 before officiating at the Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand last summer, will now join the likes of Lionesses legend Jill Scott, Newcastle United icon Alan Shearer and England's World Cup-winning manager Sir Alf Ramsey in the National Football Museum Hall of Fame.

Speaking after the announcement was made to coincide with International Women's Day, Washington-born Welch said: "It's quite overwhelming, I was very honoured to be asked. My journey started 13 years ago and now here I am having refereed in one of the biggest leagues in the world, being inducted to the Hall of Fame alongside legends of the game, it doesn't feel real to me."

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Tim Desmond, CEO of the National Football Museum, added: “Rebecca’s achievements in football are nothing short of outstanding. Reaching the pinnacle of refereeing in the women’s game officiating at multiple World Cups as well as becoming the first female to officiate the Premier League. Rebecca’s achievements take bravery and extreme dedication to her craft. She’s a shining example for women looking to make a career in refereeing, the wider footballing world and beyond and we are delighted to announce she will be inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame.”

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