Cup final day of destiny for female referee

Referee Natalie Walker in action at Lancaster earlier this season
Referee Natalie Walker in action at Lancaster earlier this season
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A college lecturer will fulfil a footballing dream after being appointed to referee the Women’s FA Cup Final.

Natalie Walker, 30, will take charge of the final on May 26 which will be shown live on Sky Sports.

It’s the latest in a string of honours for the Walton-le-Dale based Preston College tutor who officiated at last year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup in Germany.

She was an assistant referee during the 2004 Women’s FA Cup final and was fourth official in 2008 - but this is the first time she will take centre stage.

Natalie, who is a Level 3 referee, said: “I got the call on Tuesday morning from the FA and I was totally shocked.

“I was not expecting it at all.

“It’s the highest appointment that the FA can give to a female referee and I can’t wait.

“I asked Peter Elsworth at the FA if he was sure and he said ‘yes, but we can re-appoint it if you want?. I said: ‘No, way!’

“I think I was just in shock.

“It’s something that you can do only once in your life so it will be a special occasion and one I will never forget.”

Natalie is Lancashire’s leading female referee after taking up the whistle at the age of 15.

She was promoted to Level 3 last season and has officiated on the Evostik League and Blue Square North this season.

She will be joined on the big day by her family, including dad Billy, a former referee, and husband Richard, who is a Level 5 referee.

Natalie said: “I think we will go down on the Friday where there will be an official meal before the game on the Saturday at 12.15pm.

“I’m just going to try to enjoy the whole occasion.”

It will be the first time one of her games as a referee will be televised live.

And after a series of high-profile errors in the men’s game, is she nervous about the instant TV replays?

“Every decision you make is scrutinised and even more so when it’s live on TV,” she said. “But that’s part and parcel of the game now.”

Birmingham City Ladies will meet either Chelsea or Arsenal in the final on May 26 at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate ground.