Rebecca Welch hopes she can be an inspiration to other women after becoming the first female referee appointed to take charge of an English Football League game.
The 37-year-old, from Washington in Durham, is set to take charge of the League Two clash between Harrogate and Port Vale on Easter Monday.
Welch has officiated seven National League games this season, but will create history by refereeing the match at the EnviroVent Stadium next week.
“Initially I wasn’t really aware of being appointed as the first female referee,” she said on the EFL’s official website.
“I was just given the appointment and I was over the moon but, when you kind of reflect on it, you think you’re the first woman ever to do this, so I’m extremely proud and my family’s extremely proud as well.
“I do think it’s important to show that women who are in the top one per cent of their category can proceed to the next level so it definitely makes others down the pyramid look up and know that they can achieve the same.
“It shows that there is a real opportunity to young girls who are wondering to take the whistle or are already referees, they can aspire to be an EFL referee or like Sian Massey-Ellis 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.”
Amy Fearn was the first woman to referee an EFL game as she came on as an injury replacement in the 2010 Championship game between Coventry and Nottingham Forest.
But Welch is the first to be given a game from the off and she said she was surprised when she found out the news on Saturday.
She added: “It was a shock. I was on my way back from a game and I got a phone call from Mike Jones (PGMOL national group director) and my initial response was, ‘Oh what have I done?’
“But I’m really excited and this is what I’ve been working towards. To be given this opportunity to work in the EFL is amazing for me.”
Welch was in charge of Saturday’s National League game between King’s Lynn and Eastleigh and has dished out 31 yellow cards and one red in her seven games of the fifth-tier competition.
Speaking ahead of Manchester City Women’s Champions League clash against Barcelona, boss Gareth Taylor said: “It’s great to see. I think it should be something that’s really normalised now and shouldn’t have to be celebrated so much. Regardless of the gender, it’s the best person for the job.”