Everton Women manager Brian Sorensen is fully backing the decision to appoint a female referee taking charge of a Premier League game this weekend.
Rebecca Welch will be in the middle when Fulham and Burnley meet at Craven Cottage on Saturday 23 December.
The 40-year-old, who operated as the fourth official for Manchester United’s visit to the same ground in November, and is already the first woman to be appointed to referee an English Football League match when she led the team of officials for the League Two match between Harrogate and Port Vale in April 2021.
Speaking in his press conference ahead of Everton’s final WSL clash of 2023 against Manchester City, Sorensen, who has been involved in women’s football since 2009, said he applauds the decision and pointed to the dedication of those females working in the women’s game.
“It is really big. We see it all around Europe that some of the really top, top referees are getting a chance at the highest men’s level,” he said.
“I have said it all along: I really enjoy working in women’s football and have done my whole life. The commitment they have, they definitely don’t do it for the money.
“Perhaps in years to come that may change with the growth of the game but all of the time I have been working in it it is for the love of the game.
“And now females are getting opportunities on the biggest stage and I grateful for that and I applaud it.”
While this is a first for the English game’s top flight, it is not totally new on the wider global footballing scale. In 2019, Stéphanie Frappart became the first woman to referee a major men’s European match and a French Ligue 1 match, and was the first woman to officiate a UEFA Champions League match the following year.
In 2021, the 40 year-old became the first woman to take charge of a men’s World Cup qualifying match and, in 2022, was one of the three women referees selected to officiate at the men’s World Cup, before becoming the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match in an all-female referee team.
While most will see Welch’s appointment as simply another first, and respect the fact that ability is not based on a person’s gender, there some will be others no doubt vehemently opposed to officiating at Fulham this weekend before its even started.
Former footballer Joey Barton has been his usual vocal self on X, seemingly waging a keyboard war against everything and anyone associated with being a woman in football, while the outspoken Piers Morgan has already vented his frustration at Manchester United and England’s Mary Earps being named 2023 Sports Personality of the Year.
And who can forget Sian Massey-Ellis! The 38-year-old whom, after her second Premier League game, as an assistant official in Liverpool’s 3–0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on 22 January 2011, was the victim of a sexism controversy, with remarks made about her by Sky Sports staff leading to the dismissals of commentator Andy Gray and presenter Richard Keys, as well as a suspension for reporter Andy Burton.
You can’t be sure of anything in life but I am pretty certain that when the day comes and a female takes charge at the home of the Blues, they will be treated with the same boos that their male counterparts usually receive when officiating Everton home games.