Rebecca Welch will make history next week having become the first woman to be appointed to referee a game in the English Football League.
The 37-year-old from Washington in the north east will take charge of the League Two clash between Harrogate and Port Vale on Easter Monday.
It continues a rise through the officiating ranks that began just 10 years ago.
Welch, who was born on December 1, 1983, played football from childhood but only took up the whistle at the age of 27 having been challenged to do so by a friend.
“I played football and didn’t even think about refereeing until one of my really good friends, who is a referee, refereed us,” she said in a recent interview. “I spent the whole game telling her how to do her job!
“Her response was, ‘If you think it’s that easy, give it a go’. That’s how it happened and 10 years later here I am.”
She qualified as an official through the Durham County FA and began refereeing in university football and in Sunday leagues in Sunderland.
She is now in the elite category of referees and is on FIFA’s international list. In the women’s game she has been involved in internationals, Champions League fixtures and Women’s Super League matches. She hopes to earn selection for the panels at Euro 2022 and the 2023 World Cup.
She holds the rare honour of having refereed the Women’s FA Cup final twice, first doing so in 2017 and then again last year. Normal Football Association rules would prevent this but an exception was made due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the men’s game she has previously refereed in the National League.