Joe Fletcher

Joe Fletcher, a 41-year-old CPA at WMKL in St. Catharines, Ontario, moonlights as a Major League Soccer and international-level referee. (Photo by Lars Baron/FIFA via Getty Images)

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Joe Fletcher, a 41-year-old CPA at WMKL in St. Catharines, Ontario, moonlights as a Major League Soccer and international-level referee. This past summer, he officiated nine World Cup matches.

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I played soccer as a teenager. Reffing was my first part-time job, at 14. It was better than a newspaper route or working at the snow cone shack. And I just never stopped.

I like soccer because even though you have star players, no one player can go it alone. It’s always team first. In both accounting and soccer, you have to manage different types of personalities.

A referee’s job is to appear when expected and to disappear otherwise. You don’t want to be the reason a team was eliminated from the World Cup because you missed the fact that five players knocked out seven other players with a lead pipe and nothing got called. You can’t be in the headlines.

I spent 45 days at the World Cup, but I didn’t abandon my accounting post entirely. Most of my clients have gotten used to me doing this, and if it can wait, they won’t bother me. If I had two hours to kill it wasn’t enough time to go to downtown Moscow or take a tour, but it was the perfect time to get some work out of the way.

I have an expert knowledge of tax and small business, but if I’m explaining tax changes on split income to another accountant, it’s going to be a different conversation than the one I’d have with a client. It’s the same in soccer. Players have a good working knowledge, but not an expert knowledge. If they ask me something, I have to do my best to explain it without being overly technical.

In Major League Soccer, it’s easier to see things develop. At the World Cup, the game moves faster—everything happens at breakneck speed. There are fewer bad touches of the ball, so the ball stays in play longer. And it’s a knockout tournament, so there’s a greater sense of urgency—and a lot more pressure. The whole world is watching.

I wouldn’t want to be a full-time referee. The professional accountant in me knows the lifespan of a CPA is a lot longer than that of a referee. But I don’t have to choose—I can do both.