Matt Mesiano was in attendance at the Conference South match between Hemel Hempstead Town and Bath City last weekend as a reporter for BBC Three Counties Radio, but ended the match as a linesman.
From the BBC:
“There was a decent crowd, so I was a bit nervous, but I don’t think it went too badly,” said the 26-year-old.
Mesiano is a camera technician at Middlesex University, and also a freelance radio reporter.
“I’m a level seven referee, which is junior county level, so I’m used to being watched by one man and his dog rather than crowds of 700–800,” he said.
“In the ninth minute assistant referee Chris Wicks went down with a tight calf muscle and couldn’t continue.
“The referee, Robert Hyde, came over to the benches and asked for a neutral qualified official, and there didn’t seem to be anybody else other than myself that fitted that description.
“There was a 10-minute break for me to put on the other lad’s outfit, luckily for me we were the same size. I do spend quite a bit of time at the club, covering it, so lots of people knew who I was.”
Visiting Bath City won 3–0 and after the final whistle, Mesiano changed back into his own clothes and reverted back to the job he was originally sent to do, interviewing Hemel manager Dean Brennan. “He was quite happy with my performance,” Mesiano said.
Perhaps the most famous example of spectator turned linesman is that of former Coventry City manager and longtime Match of the Day presenter Jimmy Hill stepped in for an injured linesman during a 1972 match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Highbury. From Arsenal.com:
FA rules state that the match could not be completed without a referee and two linesmen, so the game was in danger of being abandoned.
The matchday announcer put a message over the loudspeaker asking if anyone was a qualified referee and would volunteer to run the line. Out of the crowd came none other than TV pundit Jimmy Hill!
Jimmy was a qualified referee and had been at Highbury that day as a spectator. He quickly donned a tracksuit and stepped in for the injured Mr Drewitt.
And if that happened in a Chelsea match, Jose Mourinho’s head would explode.