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Question Number: 28386

The Fourth Official 5/1/2014

RE: Competitive Travel Under 17

John of Indianapolis, IN USA asks...

I have slated to be a Fourth Official this week-end. This is a job I am familiar with, but I have not personally done this job. I know the book answer of 'What are the Fourth Official's duties?' (Manage technical areas; manage substitutions; neutral observer). But I would welcome any additional tips anyone could provide. Specifically with controlling team areas and coaches. Thanks to all.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi John
The biggest challenge I have found with being 4th official is managing the behaviour of the team officials. The substitutes know that they can be cautioned and that it can affect their game. So a lot depends on the coaching staff and their behaviour as to how smoothly the role runs for the game. Factors can include history between the teams, attitude to the referee, disagreement on decisions. I tend to cut some slack as I do as a referee and to recognise what is 'typical' game shout and what is affecting the game.
I enforce the 'seating' requirement strictly for substitutes and I'm more flexible with the coaching staff until they start 'abusing' that. Then its enforced strictly there as well.
Some other tip include
1. Only allow two substitutes at a time to warm up and watch them carefully as to what they are doing. As soon as it is not warming up its sit down time.
2. Agree how to handle ball replacement and collection with the referee. A recent game that I was involved in had 4 extra balls and players were reluctant to follow the match ball as it was a running track venue so replacements were sought quite often. It was difficult to retrieve the ball/s.
3. While not always provided I use my own substitute pass cards so each teams gets 3 cards of a different colour and they are asked to complete same as a substitution request. It brings an order and discipline to it.
They key though for me is bench control. Get that right by bringing your own personality to it. I tend to lighten the mood and try to keep it friendly with lots of explanations. If I need to though I get assertive very quickly. That works for me. Best of luck with it

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

1. Be of service to the referee. Arrive early so resolve issues so that the referee doesn't need to deal with them. Know (and bring) any special rules of competition. Are there field/goal issues? Rosters? Balls? What's the team/keeper's colors (shirt, short, sox)? Before the match begins, know who on the bench is a substitute and who is a team official. Ask the subs to put on pennies before they bother the AR2 while warming up on. Make sure teams put away the practice balls. Resolving the little stuff makes the referee's life easier.

2. Be a referee. Subject to the pregame, you are the last line of defense during the game is to make sure that you see anything that has to be seen by someone on the referee team. That may mean you are watching the attacker slowly walking back after play is in the other half. Your eyes need to be on any fouls in front of the bench (that they see, but the referee and AR1 may not). I try to watch what's going on behind the referee's bench. (Note: this means that you might miss who scored. The scoring team will always be willing to confirm the number of who scored and who got the assist.)

Skip the clipboard and always try to face the field. I use a note card to write down goals,cautions (some referees want a foul count) so that I can write while still keeping eyes of the field.

3. Be a mediator. Handling the bench is more therapy than enforcement. The coaches know you can't change the decision. But, you can listen to them, and they want to be heard even knowing it changes nothing. Sometimes standing near them is enough. Acknowledging the coach's comment is not the same as agreeing with it.

4. Be a traffic cop for substitutions. Handling substitutions means doing it perfectly. I love it when the league requires substitution passes. I review the pass to make sure it is filled out properly and then give it back to the sub! I won't take it until the player is off the field.

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