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Question Number: 33613

The Fourth Official 9/2/2019

RE: Under 17

Henry of Portland, OR USA asks...

This year I will ref in some high level youth games that utilize a fourth official slot. I have no experience with the fourth official position, as even other leagues with these level games did not use them.

I know that the 4O main duties are technical area management. However, I recently watched a video from our state referee association and in the video, they mentioned utilizing your 4O to help with balls in and out of play and even some foul calls that occur right in front of them. Since those are occurring in front of both benches, it is important to get those calls right to keep competent standing with the coaches who can usually clearly see what happens, and given how that area is common to have players bunch for the ball and the CR/AR getting shielded, the 4O can have a better view. They suggested using subtle motions, such as your 4O raising a finger below their waist in the direction the ball went out if you look to them in confusion, or stepping towards the touch line and doing the same if a foul occurred.

I tried to do some research and could find nothing about this, I guess it would all be under ref discretion. Have you ever heard of or would suggest utilizing a 4O like this?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Henry,
One of the biggest tips I can give to a 4th official is that if you're bored, you're doing it wrong. Yes, TA management is perhaps the priority - but like players, you can build a rapport with the benches as well. If you need to get a manager back into the TA, just a smile and 'could you just step back into the area for me? thanks' - no need to be too quick on the draw with this. Don't get sucked into the 'did you think that was a foul?' discussions - but no different to being an AR there.

You'll want to try to manage the replacement ball at halfway and if that gets used try to keep an eye on if a ball is coming back your way.

Communicate the expectations with the subs to the benches and you'll manage those in conjunction with the AR - your ref should outline how this is to be communicated- at grassroots games, we've usually just had the 4th call out to the near AR and they signal, then the AR runs up to halfway as normal (though some refs don't want the AR to run up...especially if they're 50 yards away!).

The ref needs to include the 4th official in their scan (because as a ref, you need to frequently check both ARs). We had an approach that the 4th official standing at the field at halfway was communicating something, so the ref would make eye contact and the 4th may use a discrete hand signal to call the ref over.

Usually the 4th is the replacement referee. So, you need to be constantly and actively scanning play. Don't watch the ball - watch the players all over the field. If the attacker and keeper have tangled up in a physical contest but the ball goes out and is breaking fast up the other end, then the referee is chasing the ball, the 2 AR's are keeping up with the sprinting 2nd last defenders - who is watching the keeper and the attacker? If you're the 4th, you need to. And you need to balance this with your TA management duties - so don't turn your back to the game.

I'm often amazed when off-the-ball VC is missed in games with 4th officials - because both the far AR and the 4th need to constantly scan off-the-ball incidents.

On the topic of actively watching play - as the 4th you need to know what players are causing trouble, which pairs of players have a grievance, who has been warned, which players are influencing the mood of the match - same as you do if you're the referee. Because if you have to step in, it needs to be seamless - and players already on their 'final warning' don't get more grace just because that referee has left. When you take your match notes (eg at a goal), make sure the AR's and ref have all stopped - you can take yours at any time.

If there's a mass confrontation, you'll probably be the one trying to keep the benches off the field - but don't put yourself at risk, of course.

We would also use very discrete signals to help out with ball in/out of play. Sometimes if the ball is out near us and we see the referee make eye contact before signalling, just a very slight tilt of the head and a look in the relevant direction is enough to communicate whose throw. Whether the referee wants that is up to them - but helping out with violent conduct and other off-the-ball incidents missed by the referee is definitely under the purview of the 4th official.

For fouls (if the referee wants help there), perhaps a slight nod (or shake of the head) may be sufficient if the referee is looking for help.

I quite enjoy being a 4th official - and they really can help the game go smoothly and make things easier for the rest of the refereeing team.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Henry
Best wishes with the step up.
Now 4th official roles vary depending on the competition, whose is carrying out the role and what is the norm that is expected or that the referee wants carried out.
At the outset it is another extra pair of eyes to help with controlling the game plus an official that can be given many duties including all the roster admin, team kits, substitutions, control of technical staff and substitutes, spare ball management.
Now some referees can extend the role to include other duties particularly if they are miked up and in direct communication with the referee.
These extra duties can include in no particular order
Advice on thrown in direction if there is doubt
Offences in front of the technical area.
Identification of player/s guilty of misconduct
Keeping track of cards
Keeping track of time lost on substitutions, injuries to help confirm the referee's assessment of time lost.
Now some 4th officials may not want extra duties or be up to extra tasks or indeed some of the tasks are not relevant. Case in point is the spare ball management. In our Leagues both teams provide two balls each so that task is left to the teams.
In higher levels of the game the 4th official is the designated replacement referee whereas at lower levels it may be an assist who is replaced by the 4th.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Henry,
First off good on you in stepping up.
discuss your concerns, ask your questions, explain your ideas, but understand, you are there to assist the referee, so take direction! The amount of interaction may depend on the communication system. Will you have radio? Or buzzers? While most CRs want a 4th dedicated to maintaining peace and harmony along the touch lines as a neutral official your view of a situation may well be very important. Zidane, the best player in the world was sent off for an incident that only the 4th official witnessed at a World cup. So yes you want to be aware but follow the directions of the CR, you can suggest, but take no offence if he says I prefer this to that. The LOTG do give a brief synopsis of your specific duties . Do not over extend your input by doing too much and thus forgetting what you need to be aware of . Managing the touchlines can be difficult if you have over zealous coaches or managers abandoning their responsibilities. To be the calming influence in a passionate game is a chore I assure you! Work as a team, ensure you follow directives and communicate effectively!

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