The 2023 Boxing Day schedule is packed, starting with Newcastle vs Nottingham Forest in the Premier League and Preston vs Leeds in the Championship. The day features multiple kick-off times across the top five leagues, with matches like Ipswich vs Leicester in the Championship and Manchester United vs Aston Villa in the Premier League among the most anticipated.
With the Premier League title race heating up, bettors will be paying particularly close attention to Manchester United to Aston Villa. Villa’s good form under Unai Emery has seen the club propelled to the middle of an unlikely title run, while United have struggled to find momentum this campaign.
Alongside the exciting action, the Premier League is making history with two groundbreaking refereeing appointments this Christmas period. Rebecca Welch becomes the first woman to officiate a Premier League match, taking charge of the Fulham vs Burnley game on December 23. Sam Allison, on the other hand, will become the first black referee in the Premier League in 15 years, overseeing the Sheffield United vs Luton Town match on Boxing Day.
Rebecca Welch’s journey in refereeing began in 2010, balancing her role with her NHS job before committing full-time. She has a notable record, including refereeing Women’s Super League matches and Women’s FA Cup finals. In December 2020, she was added to FIFA’s Elite List of International Match Officials.
“I played football and didn’t even think about refereeing until one of my really good friends, who is a referee, refereed us,” she told the Independent. “I spent the whole game telling her how to do her job! Her response was, ‘If you think it’s that easy, give it a go.’ That’s how it happened, and ten years later, here I am.”
Sam Allison, a former professional footballer, transitioned to refereeing and has since officiated over 100 matches in the EFL. His promotion to officiate in the Championship for the 2023/24 season marks a significant step in his career.
These appointments are a part of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in football officiating. Howard Webb, PGMOL’s chief operating officer, highlights these appointments as milestones and role models for future referees.
“I’m excited to see the appointment of Rebecca Welch to her first Premier League referees appointment,” said Howard Webb, chief operating officer for PGMOL in a press release. “We’ve not seen a female take charge of a Premier League [game] ever before, so it is significant. It shows that if you’ve got the quality, then that will be recognised, and you will get the opportunity.”
Webb added, “Sam [is] the first black official with a whistle since Uriah Rennie, an ex-colleague of mine. Again, down to the quality of his performances in recent weeks in the Championship, and both appointments are really well deserved.”
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