SUFFOLK official Abi Byrne is looking forward to ‘making my family and friends proud’ after being appointed to referee this season’s SSE Women’s FA Cup Final.
Abi, who celebrates her 27th birthday on Friday, will be in the middle for the final between Manchester City and West Ham United at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, May 4th.
The showpiece occasion, which kicks-off at 5.30pm, will be broadcast live on BBC One.
Her assistant referees will be Sian Massey-Ellis and Melissa Burgin. The Fourth Official will be Lisa Benn.
Abi, who lives in Mildenhall, said: “I found out about the appointment in a phone call from Peter Elsworth, the Senior Referee Manager at The FA.
“I couldn’t believe it once he told me and it still hasn’t sunk in yet!
“This is definitely the biggest highlight of my career so far. It’s the biggest game in women’s football in this country and it makes it even more special that I am able to lead the teams out at Wembley, our national stadium.”
Previously known by her maiden name of Abi Marriott, she was an assistant referee at the SSE Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium two years ago.
She said: “I definitely think being on the cup final before at Wembley will help me prepare and hopefully I can draw on this experience to calm the nerves before kick-off!”
Abi, who is refereeing Lowestoft Town’s match at home to Stratford in the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central on Saturday, added: “I am most looking forward to making my family and friends proud and trying to soak up as much of the atmosphere as well!
“I have a great team around me so I’m sure we will put in a good performance.”
Suffolk FA Senior Referee Development Officer Alan Dale said: “This is an outstanding appointment for Abi and she should be very proud of being selected to officiate the 2019 SSE Women’s Cup Final.
“She continues to be a role model for aspiring officials and through her work within the county by mentoring other referees and through supporting local Referees’ Association’s, this appointment will only serve to continue to encourage those around her.
“On behalf of the whole team at Suffolk FA, we wish Abi and her team all of the very best in the final.”
The appointment is the latest honour for Abi, who in December was accepted by FIFA, meaning she is currently on the list of international referees for 2019.
Abi was fourth official at the England versus Brazil Women's International Friendly at Notts County last October.
Prior to that she was an assistant referee at the UEFA Women's Champions' League Qualifying Round in Lithuania in August.
She refereed the Women's FA Varsity Match in March 2018 and the following month was referee for one of the SSE Women's FA Cup Semi-Finals.
David Elleray, Chairman of The FA Referees' Committee, added: “The FA Referees' Committee is very pleased that, once again, a team of female match officials will take control of the Women’s FA Cup Final.
“Led by referee Abigail Byrne, the team includes the highly experienced Sian Massey-Ellis who officiates regularly in the Premier League and is a ‘veteran’ of some of the most important women’s international matches in the world. Mel Burgin and Lisa Benn, who have both enjoyed excellent performances this season, complete the quartet and the Referees' Committee is convinced that they will all contribute to an exciting final, which will show the continuing growth in the quality of playing and officiating in the women’s game.”
Tickets for this season’s final are already on sale priced £15 for adults while kids go free: www.thefa.com/tickets