The fourth official is a very helpful part of the referee crew. The problem is that most matches do not have a fourth official. Having an additional referee requires more money, which most clubs are not willing to pay. But, when you reach a higher level of play, fourth officials are more common. The fourth official is responsible for replacing a referee or assistant referee if they are unable to continue in the match for any reason, typically an injury. The fourth official also:
– assists the referee with any administrative duties
– assists the referee with substitution procedures
– has the authority to check the equipment of any substitutes
– supervises the replacement balls in case the match ball becomes unusable
– assists the referee with any decisions (the referee has the final decision; the fourth official may only provide input, not make the final decision)
The fourth official should wear the same jersey as the referee and assistant referees, although he may wear a jacket if he wishes and the competition rules comply with that wish. In higher level competitions with a limited number of substitutions, the fourth official may receive a substitution board to use. The substitution board is the way for the fourth official to signal which player is exiting the field of play, and which player is entering during a substitution. The substitution board can also be used to signal how much time the referee is adding on to the end of the half to make up for injuries and stoppages.
The fourth official should arrive to the field of play earlier than the referee and assistant referees. He should make sure that the referees’ locker room (if used) is unlocked for the referee and assistant referees. He should also check in with the facilities manager to see if there are any additional responsibilities that he has in regards to preparing for the arrival of the referee and assistant referees.