There is Only One Canadian Referee at the World Cup…and He is an Accountant from St. Catharines, Ontario.

You will not want to break any rules with this accountant around…

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Joe Fletcher, CPA, CA, might be sprinting down a soccer field in Russia right now. Though most of the time, Joe is a partner at Wormald Masse Keen Lopinski LLP (WMKL) in St. Catharines, he has also been an assistant referee for Major League Soccer (MLS), the 2012 Olympics, the 2014 World Cup, and many other major soccer events.

Here is Joe being snubbed by a FIFA official, then being consoled by Spanish superstar goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

This time, Joe will spend over a month in Russia as an assistant referee and assistant video assistant referee for the 2018 World Cup. In case you were wondering: Yes, he will still be working on the road.

From Soccer Rules to IFRS

By age 14, Joe had already become a referee for Niagara Falls SC. He later graduated from Brock University’s accounting program and joined WMKL, where he has worked ever since. Having gone from co-op student to partner, Joe’s practice now covers everything from audit to tax.

Accounting is hard work, and Joe brings the same work ethic to soccer. When Joe was named Runner-Up for Male Referee of the Year by CONCACAF, his manager from the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) commented:

“Joe is always looking for ways to improve. He studies the game beforehand, has an incredibly high work rate during the match and then does a complete review and self-evaluation. PRO is very proud to have him as part of our team of assistant referees.”

What is an Assistant Referee or Video Assistant Referee?

You can easily spot an assistant referee by the flag that they hold. They are the people running along the perimeter of the pitch, signalling for offside, out-of-bounds, and other violations.

Joe Fletcher World Cup
Joe Fletcher at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, calling offside in a match

A Video Assistant Referee, as the name implies, reviews video footage from behind the scenes and communicates with the head referee to help verify or overturn decisions. Common examples include reviewing penalty decisions, red cards, and of course, goals.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup

Being a referee takes a lot of stamina and preparation, so FIFA will rotate between 35 referees and 62 assistant referees throughout the tournament.

Joe is thrilled to be part of this historic event:

“I got an absolute appreciation for how much the world stops for soccer when that tournament is on…all of a sudden the number of eyes moves from a million to a billion.”

So far, Joe has been an assistant video assistant referee for the Argentina-Iceland match, and an assistant referee in the Portugal-Morocco match. He will be in many more matches to come, so keep an eye out for Joe Fletcher!

Joe Fletcher (left) entering the stadium for the group stage match between Portugal and Morocco
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