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For the first time, a girl became the main referee in the Premier League. And that’s great

Grigory Telingater December 24, 2023, 10:00 Moscow time Audio version: Your browser does not support the audio element.

This is the case when not all messages are bad.

On December 23, 2023, a momentous event took place for the English Championship. In the Fulham – Burnley match, the girl Rebecca Welch worked as the main referee. She became the first, because so far only men have refereed in the Premier League. The girls were just assistants to the main referee. Sergio Agüero won’t let you lie: in one of the matches he hugged one of the referees by the neck, for which he was criticized, but he avoided any punishment.

Sergio Agüero and Sian Massey-Ellis

Photo: Transmission frame

The historic match ended with a sudden victory for Burnley (2-0). We planned to contact our referee expert Igor Fedotov about Welch’s controversial calls, but she didn’t make any significant mistakes. The coaches of both teams did not criticize her and the English media came out with headlines like “Rebecca Welch gave the perfect response to Joey Barton’s criticism.” The former City and Newcastle player publicly doubted she could cope before the game.

The appointment of this girl as the main referee of the Premier League has been in the works for some time. She is 40 years old and has been refereeing football matches since 2010, as well as working for the National Health Service. At first, Welch worked women’s matches, but in 2021 she became the first girl assigned to a men’s League 2 match (the fourth major league in England).

Then there was a debut in the Championship and in the FA Cup. It is noteworthy that on both occasions there were Birmingham matches. He later faced what the media called “misogynistic chants performed by fans,” but this did not stop him from moving forward in his career. Last month, Welch became the Premier League’s first substitute referee. If the main referee had been injured, she would have come out to referee the Fulham-Manchester United match.

Rebecca Welch (left)

Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

PGMOL boss Howard Webb exudes confidence from the start: “Rebecca has been in big games before. I am sure that she will demonstrate her level in the Premier League. She will be a very good example for women and girls who may think that refereeing is for them but had not been interested in it before.”

In fact, the Premier League is not exactly a trend-setter. Stephanie Frappart has been working in the neighboring country for several years: she made her debut in the French Championship in 2019 in the Amiens-Strasbourg match. In 2020, she worked on the Champions League group stage match between Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv. And last year she refereed the 2022 World Cup match between Costa Rica and Germany. In all cases we talk about her acting as the main arbitrator.

Stephanie Frappart

Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

“Why not, if you have the necessary skills?” – Chelsea coach Pochettino said the other day. And, in fact, this is the key question. Arguments against female judges can run the gamut: from inappropriate approaches such as “a girl’s place is in the kitchen!” to logical questions like “will she physically be able to do it?” And here several nuances must be taken into account. First of all, football is a very intense sport, which involves a workload at an unusual and choppy pace.

It is obvious that girls are basically physically weaker. But it is not the average level of all women on the planet. We are talking about specific people who practice sports. On average, a referee runs 11 kilometers per match, a distance that is within the capabilities of both men and women with regular training over several years. We know from the Olympic Games that a girl can run 10 kilometers in 30 minutes. Even taking into account the specific distribution of pulls and breaks, holding a match is a quite feasible task for a 40-year-old woman. In terms of stamina she is unlikely to be the worst among the Premier League’s chief referees, who are mostly older. Furthermore, she passed the exact same tests as the male judges.

Meanwhile, La Liga will begin publishing referee conversations in the VAR:

The revolutionary decision will change the attitude towards judges. Football in Spain will be more transparent

There is one more nuance that influences the appointment of girls for the English Championship matches. It’s about the current context. Nowadays, Premier League referees make inexplicable mistakes. Like the absurdly disallowed goal against Luis Díaz. This same year, referees simply forgot to draw offside lines. And Odegaard’s hand in this round looked extremely doubtful. Howard Webb regularly calls clubs and apologizes for mistakes, and former referee Mike Dean admits in an interview that he did not call the head referee on the monitor because he was his friend. As a result, a Premier League manager can say publicly that he doesn’t like 80% of English referees. New blood is clearly needed in this toxic mess, and the first female referee seems to fit the bill.


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