Rebecca Welch will make history as the first woman to referee a Premier League match later this month, while on Boxing Day Sam Allison will become the first black man to officiate a top-flight game in 15 years.
The 40-year-old Welch will take charge of the Fulham v Burnley match on December 23, while Allison will be the man in the middle for Sheffield United’s home game against Luton three days later.
Uriah Rennie was the last black referee to take charge of a Premier League game in 2008 having officiated in the competition for 11 years up to that point.
History will be made in the Premier League this Christmas…
Rebecca Welch will become the competition's first woman referee and Sam Allison the first black official to take charge of a match for 15 years
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 14, 2023
Welch started out as a referee in 2010 while working in an administrative capacity in the NHS before going into officiating on a full-time basis. She made history in April 2021 when she became the first woman to be appointed to referee an EFL match, taking charge of the League Two fixture between Harrogate and Port Vale.
Howard Webb, the chief refereeing officer of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), said: “Rebecca is a really calm focused individual on the field. She does command a lot of respect in a pretty understated way. She has a good reading of the game, she is an accurate decision-maker, a good athlete on the field, too.
“When you meet her, she’s got a presence about her, she’s not got huge stature in terms of being really tall but she has a presence about her. She’s a really determined official. She is similar in some ways to Stephanie Frappart, the French official who has worked on the Champions League this year
“She’s really worked hard to get to this position over several years. She’s worked hard physically, technically and really does deserve this opportunity. I went to see her myself recently in a game in the Championship and was highly impressed by what I saw in terms of her command of the game.
“She has good reading of the game, good subtle management of the players as well and I’ve got no doubt she’ll show all of those qualities at Fulham on the 23rd.”
Welch has also regularly refereed high-profile games in the Women’s Super League and took charge of the 2017 and 2020 Women’s FA Cup finals at Wembley, as well as matches at the 2022 Women’s Euro and this year’s Women’s World Cup.
She was also the first woman to officiate in the men’s Championship and FA Cup third round, and was the fourth official for last month’s Premier League encounter between Fulham and Manchester United.
Allison, 42, played with Swindon, Bristol City, Bournemouth and Exeter and had worked as a firefighter before focusing full-time on officiating.
“Both Rebecca and Sam were part of the development group that was created last year. They went through a selection process to be part of that,” Webb added.
“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, she was the fourth official a few weeks ago for the first time, and we have lots of talented female officials working in the game.
“We have Kirsty Dowle taking charge of her first Football League game this weekend at Doncaster Rovers, she’s another FIFA-registered official.
“I just hope that other people will see the success of these female officials, young girls and young women, and think that refereeing might be for them.
“Sam being the first black referee in the Premier League since Uriah Rennie back in 2008, again we know he has performed well in the Championship this year at a consistent level and we are confident he will deliver a strong performance.
History will be made in the #PL this Christmas, with Rebecca Welch becoming the competition's first woman referee and Sam Allison the first black official to take charge of a match for 15 years.
— PGMOL (@FA_PGMOL) December 14, 2023
“The profile of the game 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.”
Allison has taken charge of over 100 matches in the EFL and his first Premier League exposure came in October 2022, when he was fourth official in the fixture between Brighton and Chelsea.