Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver has backed ‘outstanding’ referee Rebecca Welch as she gears up to be the first ever female referee to officiate a Football League fixture.

Rebecca Welch from County Durham will go down in English football history on Monday when she takes charge of Harrogate Town’s match with Port Vale at The EnviroVent Stadium.

And Town manager Simon Weaver believes the attitude and the standard of a referee are the only things that should matter.

He said:

“The fact that we know how many people from the press are coming to the ground on Monday – it’s bigger news than it should be! I think people should be given the opportunity whether they’re male or female if they’re good enough.

“We’ve had this referee before and she’s absolutely outstanding, so quite why she hasn’t had the opportunity before I really don’t know.

“It’s amazing that we’re talking like this in 2021. There should be fair and equal opportunities for all, and everything should be decided on whether you’ve got the right attitude and whether you’re good enough. There should be a progression pathway for everyone.”

Despite overseeing some big games, including the Women’s FA Cup Final, Rebecca described her appointment as the ‘biggest achievement of her career’.

She recalls the moment she found out that she would be the first female referee to take charge of an EFL game:

“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’ve I done!’ But I’m really excited and this what I’ve been working towards and to be given this opportunity to work in the EFL is amazing for me.”

Talking about the opportunities for women in football, Rebecca spoke of the importance of her appointment as an example for future generations of female officials.

She added:

“I do think it’s important in that it shows that women who are in the top 1% of their category can progress to the next level. It definitely makes other people further down the football pyramid look and think ‘if she can achieve that then so can I.’

“It’s important that we highlight it as a really good opportunity for young girls who are thinking about taking up the whistle or who are already referees and aspire to be a football league or even a premier league referee.

“I didn’t see myself as a ‘trailblazer’ until the last year where I’ve really started to accept it, because I think people who are fortunate enough to be in a position like I am need to show other people than this can be done.”

Listen to the full interview as Your Harrogate’s Pete Egerton caught up with Harrogate Town Manager Simon Weaver to discuss past results, the rest of the season and the historic appointment of female referee Rebecca Welch:

Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.