Mildenhall referee gets Wembley call-up

FA CUP OUTING: Abi Marriott
FA CUP OUTING: Abi Marriott

Mildenhall official Abi Marriott said she was left speechless after being told she will be an assistant referee at this season’s SSE FA Women’s FA Cup Final.

The 25-year-old will be running the line at the match between Birmingham City and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, May 13.

Rebecca Welch (Durham FA) has been selected as referee, Helen Byrne (Liverpool FA) as the other assistant referee and Helen Conley (Durham FA) as the fourth official.

Marriott said she was ‘ecstatic’ after learning of her appointment in a phone call from National Referee Manager Peter Elsworth on Wednesday.

“It’s not very often I’m left speechless, but I was in this case! It is definitely the pinnacle of my career — every referee dreams of walking out at Wembley for a national final,” she said.

Marriott was encouraged to take up the whistle by her fiancé and fellow referee George Byrne six years ago to prove she could do a better job than him.

“When I started I had no idea I would get this far, but as I’ve progressed my achievable targets have changed,” she added.

Marriott, who will be in charge of the Brantham Athletic versus Haverhill Rovers match in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division on Saturday, will then be fourth official at the FA Women’s Premier League Cup Final featuring Charlton Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur at Stevenage on Sunday, May 7.

“I’ll do some light work at the gym in the next two weeks, making sure I don’t pick up any injuries,” said Marriott, who expects most of her family, including mum Steph and dad Mark as well as fiancé George to watch her at Wembley.

Asked what she would say to any young females interested in refereeing, Marriott replied: “Definitely go for it! I’ve never been a footballer but if you love the game, there’s loads of opportunities in refereeing.”

Suffolk FA Referee Development Officer Mary Harmer added: “I am absolutely delighted for Abi on this fantastic achievement and reaching the pinnacle of the women’s referee pathway.”