Sports and the Unimportant: A Football Fourth Official's Gripe

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Sports and the Unimportant: A Football Fourth Official's Gripe
(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Dear FIFA,

I feel this letter has been a long time coming, and it comes to you from one of your forgotten employees. When I was hired to act as "fourth official," it sounded like a bit of a prestigious title. However, the job description provided to me at the time of hiring has absolutely nothing to do with the hell I have to endure on the sidelines.

Oh, the indignity I have to suffer during each match. I just wish you knew the kind of pressure I'm always under. But how would you know? I'm probably not even visible to you during match broadcasts, and I'm sure your plush boardroom boxes have a view of the playing field only.

The only time you probably see me is when the teams are substituting players or when I have to hold up the board signaling some injury time to be played. I'm sure it must seem like the easiest job in the world. I'm sure you could do it with your eyes closed, right?


Here's what I think. I think the job title should be changed to "verbal abuse absorber" to better reflect the actual job description. There are other names that spring to mind as well, "hell's angel" being one of these.

Firstly, have you ever heard the kind of language I have to endure while standing there between two managers? It would make even the creators of South Park blush.

I mean, why should I be the one to take the verbal abuse for some mistake committed by the other three officials who are actually running the game?

Is it my fault that Ronaldo and Drogba dive so much that their reputation ensures they win lesser penalty appeals? Is it my fault that the linesman is blind not to see the ball crossing the goal line? Is it really my fault that the referee running the show is blind enough not to see a blatant handball in the penalty area?

Secondly, I'm always made to look like the joker when teams can't decide which players they're substituting for the other.

If they want to replace No. 16 with No. 21, why in the world is the assistant manager constantly screaming in my ear that they need to replace No. 14 with No. 23?

Then I'm the one who has to scramble in quick-time to search for the right buttons so that playing time is not lost.

Thirdly, again to elude to the inattentiveness of the match referee, when the whole world can see a head-butt on the biggest stage of the game, i.e. the World Cup final in 2006. The match referee has the temerity to ask a "fourth official" what went on and whether anyone should be sent off?

Am I supposed to be following the game on the pitch as well now? It's hard enough trying to collect player autographs to sell and supplement my income. I'm sure you've never wondered how I survive on the pittance you call my salary.

The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the tumultuous times I see on the footballing sidelines. I hope to persuade you to reconsider my compensation package and also allow me to have a chat with the managers of the football teams.

A catchier job title that would command more respect from managers, such as "executive referee," could be a place to start. After all, it would be difficult for football managers to drill me with their anger, wrath, and spit, if I was some kind of executive, right?

Give me an important decision to make as well. All the other three match officials have something important to contribute to the game by making foul, throw-in, corner, and goal-kick calls.

I've got it! I should be the one who decides when to show the yellow or red cards to the players, and even send managers away from the players' benches into the stands. That way, managers will know that I can sway the game either way, and managers and players alike will show me some respect at least.

I hope you will give some consideration to my suggestions. Thank you for your time.

Yours Sincerely,

Fourth Official

PS: Can I also get something to munch on while I bide my time on the sidelines? 

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