NZ ref on EPL duty Print
Written by TheWorldGame   
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 00:10

New Zealand referee Peter O'Leary got more than he bargained for when officiated the second half of an English Premier League match.

He attended the match between Aston Villa and Sunderland in Birmingham as a guest of top English referee Steve Bennett.

O'Leary had planned to soak up the action and watch the performance of the officials but such intentions unravelled when assistant referee Alan Williams was injured.

That meant Bennett, the fourth official, replaced Williams at halftime, and O'Leary was summoned from the stands to assume Bennett's role on the touchline.

"I was just thinking it was time to go to the directors' lounge and have something to eat when I heard my name called out over the public address system," FIFA-accredited referee O'Leary said.

"I walked into the dressing room to be greeted by smiles and sighs of relief and was told to get ready since I was going on as the fourth official.

"So I swapped my suit for a tracksuit and a pair of boots and we were off!"

As the fourth official O'Leary was required to monitor the behaviour of both teams' benches, keep tabs on the time and record the cards given and substitutions made.

He has had more onerous assignments, having refereed at A-League, under-20 international and Club World Cup level.

Nonetheless, the time on the sidelines at Villa Park was an unexpected bonus for O'Leary, in England on a two-week research tour taking in a series of meetings with English officials and another three EPL matches.

Becoming the first New Zealander to officiate in the top flight of English soccer will remain the highlight.

"As they say with football all things are possible," he said.

Next on O'Leary's wishlist is an appointment to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

Along with fellow New Zealander Mike Hester, he is part of a FIFA development group of officials for the event.

He had attended a testing and instruction programme at FIFA's Zurich headquarters before arriving in England.