Lancashire football referee Natalie Walker is heading to Canada this summer to officiate in the Women’s World Cup.
The 33-year-old, a lecturer at Preston’s College, was notified by FIFA this week of her selection to be an assistant referee at June’s event.
Walker, who lives in Marton, Blackpool, referees locally in the Northern Premier League, the North West Counties League and the Women’s Super League.
She is an assistant referee in the Conference and will be running the line at Wrexham this weekend.
This is the second World Cup which Walker has officiated at – she went to the 2011 event in Germany.
In 2012, she refereed the Women’s FA Cup final between Birmingham and Chelsea at Ashton Gate.
Walker said: “I found out from FIFA a few days ago about being selected and then got confirmation from the FA.
“On April 18 I go to Zurich for a week for medical and fitness tests and a seminar.
“I fly to Canada on May 27 and the tournament starts in early June and runs for most of the month.
“How long I’m there depends on when I get released.
“Four years ago I went to the World Cup in Germany as an assistant referee and that was a great experience.”
Walker, a former Highfield High School pupil, was in Canada last summer to officiate at the Women’s Under-20s World Cup.
She ran the line in the semi-final clash between North Korea and Nigeria, having been retained for the full tournament.
Getting to Canada last year was something of a race against time for her, having given birth to daughter Emilia just a few months before.
Said Walker: “I had my little girl 14 months ago and she was my running partner as I trained for the Under-20s World Cup.
“I started running six weeks after the birth because I knew I has to pass a fitness test in order to be chosen for the tournament.
“I would run pushing the pram, which certainly got me fit – I passed the fitness test so it is something I can recommend!”
Walker took up refereeing in her early teens, her dad having officiated in the region, while her husband Richard is also a Level 3 referee.
“My family are delighted that I’ve been selected for the World Cup, really chuffed,” she said.
“I get a lot of support from them because I work at Preston’s College and referee on a Saturday.
“I’m at the level where I referee in the NPL and North West Counties League, while I’m an assistant in the Conference.
“I referee in the Women’s Super League but it might be that I run the line for some games between now and May in order to be ready for the World Cup.
“Women’s football is a growing sport and is getting a lot more media attention. The profile will grow further with this World Cup.”