On Easter Monday Rebecca Welch made English footballing history when she became the first woman to be appointed to officiate an EFL (English Football League) match in Port Vale’s 2-0 win at Harrogate. The verdict on her performance was hugely positive,
“Very good – important calls were made throughout and they were the right calls. It was a thoroughly professional performance,” said the Harrogate Manager.
This story struck a chord with me for two reasons:
Firstly, Saturday afternoons (and often Tuesday evenings) at a League 1, 2 or Championship game have been a regular event for me over the last 17 years watching my son, John Mousinho, play – and I know how ruthless fans, managers and players can be when it comes to refs. For a woman to break through in the toughest of male environments is remarkable – it shows immense skill and bravery, and it will hopefully encourage others to follow in Rebecca’s footsteps.
Secondly, I’m a great champion of highlighting female role models in sport, of emphasising the benefits that playing team sports brings to life and work (eg. team building, leadership, tenacity, resilience, etc.), and of encouraging teenagers and women to stay in any sport (and specifically netball, which I coach and umpire).
On the ELF website, Rebecca talks about her personal journey. She says,
“I do think it’s important to show that women who are in the top 1% of their category can proceed to the next level so it definitely makes others down the period look up and know that they can achieve the same.
“It shows that there is a real opportunity to young girls who are wondering if they are able take the whistle, or are if they are already a referee they can aspire to be an EFL referee or like Sian Massey-Ellis who is currently operating in the Premier League.
“I’m really proud of it because my journey as a referee I started with not really having any aspirations to be doing things like this interview.
“In the last 10 years I’ve put a lot of hard work and commitment in and I’ve reaped the rewards from that by getting promoted. But I’d never seen myself as a trailblazer until the last year where I’ve started to accept it because I think it’s important that people who are fortunate enough to be in my position or similar can show people that this can be done.”
Rebecca is leading the way for change, is inspiring other women to break down barriers and this is a massive leap forward for football and sport.