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Rebecca Halford is making a name for herself in both the women's and men's game in differing roles.
The 21-year-old central defender, who joined Cheltenham Town at the start of the season, is also a referee on Saturdays and has run the line in the FA Vase during the campaign. Her performances with the whistle have brought much praise from teams in the Bristol area, adding to a very promising playing career which has seen her capped by Wales at Under-19 level.
In the week when it was announced that Rebecca Welch will become the first female referee appointed to officiate an EFL match - Harrogate Town v Port Vale on Easter Monday - we spoke to Rebecca about her role as player and official, including the hard work needed to keep both going:
WSS: What made you initially decide to take up refereeing, are there any other officials in your family?
RH: I started refereeing as a means of a weekend job and I had an idea of how to get in to refereeing, because my dad (Mike) is also a referee.
WSS: Where did you start off officiating, and what was it like at first?
RH: I started officiating in the local youth academy set ups (Bristol City and Bristol Rovers) and in the local grassroots league (Avon Youth League). It was enjoyable, but you did always and still do have the parents who will shout at you from the sidelines because they think that they know the laws of the game better than you!
WSS: You also run the line at a higher level, what kind of experience is it when you do that at bigger clubs?
RH: Yes, I run the line in the Toolstation Western League and occasionally higher league teams in FA competitions. On the whole I get treated as a regular official and get shouted at the same as any official does! It is good to officiate higher league teams because pre-COVID, there was always more fans/spectators, which is always enjoyable because of the atmosphere it creates in the ground.
WSS: What is it like for you to officiate in men's matches, and how helpful to you is your experience of playing?
RH: I find personally that I'm treated the same as any official, be that male or female. Sometimes I'll arrive at a game and you can see people looking because I'm a female official, but as soon as I've introduced myself, I'm warming up and out on the pitch I am treated the same as everyone else. My playing experience definitely helps me because I can read the game pretty well and I know, as a player and as an official, what decision both teams are expecting and how to best deal with any situation.
WSS: Recently, people like Stacey Pearson have proved it is possible to both play and referee in the WSL, do you see her as an inspiration for yourself?
RH: Yes - she's a role model for all young female referees and has achieved a lot in a playing and refereeing career at a high level. One day I would love to have refereed in the WSL and men's Football League and Premiership.
WSS: What have been your most memorable games so far (for all the right reasons!)?
RH: I have officiated in a number of County Cup Finals, which are always a great occasion. Playing wise, my most memorable game was being capped for Wales Under-19's against Macedonia.
WSS: Has it been easy to keep a refereeing and playing career going so far?
RH: At times it can a challenge, but on the whole I find I balance them quite well. Prior to the season coming to a halt, due to the pandemic, I refereed every Saturday and then occasionally midweek too and then I would train twice midweek and then play matches on a Sunday.
Our thanks to Rebecca!
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