Rebecca Welch: Mark Clattenburg says female referee appointment to EFL game is just 'first step'

Mark Clattenburg says Rebecca Welch is breaking down barriers for women in men's football; Welch will officiate Monday's League Two fixture between Harrogate Town and Port Vale; Clattenburg also offers thoughts on incident between Sergio Aguero and Sian Massey-Ellis in October

Match referee Rebecca Welch during the Emirates Cup match at the Emirates Stadium, London.  Picture date: Sunday July 28, 2019. 0:55
Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg says Rebecca Welch becoming the first female referee for an EFL game will break down barriers for women in men's football

Mark Clattenburg says Rebecca Welch becoming the first female referee for an EFL game will help more women be accepted in men's football.

Welch, the highest-ranking female referee in English football, will take charge of the League Two clash between Harrogate Town and Port Vale on Monday.

The 37-year-old was selected after an ongoing review of her performances this season and her appointment was approved by referee chiefs Mike Riley and Mike Jones.

Former Premier League referee Clattenburg, who has taken charge of a number of high-profile matches, including the Champions League final and Euro 2016 final, believes it is not only a positive move for Welch personally, but also for women in football.

"It's amazing now that we are seeing a lot more females in the men's competition," Clattenburg told Sky Sports News.

Referee Mark Clattenburg during the Premier League match at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, 2017 (PA)
Image: Mark Clattenburg refereed in the Premier League for 13 years, from 2004 to 2017

"We've seen it with [Stephanie Frappart] who refereed the men's Super Cup final for UEFA and recently refereed a FIFA World Cup Qualifying match, so there are more and more women moving into the men's leagues.

"Rebecca Welch is an amazing story because she didn't start until 27 so this is very late, and to achieve what she has done in 10 years... we want to wish her the best because this is her first step.

Also See:

"I remember at 25 when I first refereed a Football League game and that was unheard of. To break those barriers is so important, so everybody will be watching Rebecca.

"We all want to wish her well because this is the stepping stone that can enhance and make women more accepted in the men's game."

'Aguero tried to calm situation'

Sian Massey-Ellis is the most high-profile female official in men's football and can regularly be seen working as an assistant referee in the Premier League and in men's and women's European football.

She was thrown into the spotlight in October 2020 when Manchester City's Sergio Aguero put his arm around her while talking to her during a game - a move seen as inappropriate by some.

City boss Pep Guardiola defended Aguero after the incident but said the striker would be willing to apologise if necessary, while Massey-Ellis told Sky Sports News this week that she "didn't think anything of it".

Massey-Ellis says wants to change gender-based stereotypes for future generations 8:44
Premier League assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis discusses equality, online hate, VAR, the Sergio Aguero incident and being a trailblazer for girls who want to make it in sport

Clattenburg believes Aguero could have handled the situation differently, but says it is up to Massey-Ellis to decide whether his behaviour was appropriate.

He said: "It's up to Sian, because Sian is the person who was involved in the situation with Sergio Aguero and she didn't find it a problem, so if she didn't find it a problem then I certainly haven't got a problem.

"It was how it was done. I believe it was in a friendly way. Was it appropriate? Possibly, looking back, it could have been avoided and I'm sure the player thought, 'I could have done that differently'.

"But what we have to remember is, if you look on the field of play every week at the top level, referees do touch players in a way of a friendly gesture to calm situations down and I think Sergio had used that technique to calm the situation down.

"But unfortunately, like we have in football week in, week out, everybody has an opinion. But the main opinion stops with Sian and if Sian doesn't have a problem with it then the rest of the world shouldn't."

Win £250,000 on Friday!

Win £250,000 on Friday!

Do not miss your chance to land the £250,000 in Friday's Super 6 round. Play for free, entries by 3:00pm.

Around Sky