Florida Native Juggles Family, Work, Soccer to Represent USA at Summer Games
U.S. assistant referee and Jacksonville Beach, Fla., resident Sean Hurd was one of five USA officials to make the trek to the 2012 London Olympics. Like any representative making his or her first appearance at an event of this magnitude, especially in a setting with rich soccer history, Hurd soaked in the grandeur and got down to the business at hand.
“Once we got over there and got into the mix, we were engulfed by the atmosphere,” Hurd said. “It was a phenomenal environment. It was not just the local people who showed their passion for football, but everyone within their respective countries. The patriotism just kept building each day. It was quite an experience.”
Hurd and Mark Geiger represented the U.S. men at the Games, while Kari Seitz, Marlene Duffy and Veronica Perez officiated the women’s side.
Hurd worked during the group stage in Glasgow for Japan’s 1-0 win against Spain on July 26 and Japan’s 3-0 quarterfinal win on Aug. 4 against Egypt at Old Trafford. Fellow USA official Geiger was the head referee in the latter, and Geiger then worked as the fourth official for Brazil’s semifinal victory against South Korea on Aug. 7.
Hurd was available for that semifinal match, as well, designated as a “fifth official,” which to put it simply is a backup system for matches played beyond the quarterfinals.
“It was a good view of the game,” Hurd joked. “My role was to be there if one of the ARs is injured or can’t continue. At that stage of the tournament, the outcome is very important because you’re past the knockout stage. The winner of the semifinals obviously goes to the gold medal match, so the stakes are higher. My role was really to be prepared and be in sync with the team. I was dressed, in sweats, on the sideline so I could be able to step in without disruption. It’s not a glorious role, but we were in Manchester at Old Trafford and had been there for the quarterfinal match.”
Recently, Hurd was a part of the 2011 FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup in Colombia along with Geiger, so he had been looking at the possibility of working a high-profile international event.
“Mark Geiger and I were part of the crew that went to the U-20 World Cup last summer, so we knew that we were past the next cut for consideration for 2014 in Brazil,” Hurd said. “We didn’t do any Olympic qualifiers, so we didn’t have any expectations, but we knew the possibilities. When we were contacted in April, immediately following the qualifiers, we were ready to go.”
Hurd became a referee in 1986, joined the FIFA ranks in 2009 as an assistant referee and has officiated at international and CONCACAF Champions League matches. Despite not living in a market with a Major League Soccer team, Hurd regularly works in MLS, where officials are managed by the recently formed Professional Referee Organization.
“The PRO is going to be a good baseline for developing officials in the future,” Hurd said. “PRO is taking it to the next level, focusing on the professional referee, and [PRO General Manager] Peter Walton obviously has experience coming from the English Premier League. It’s going to be a good opportunity to help further broaden the professional referees in the U.S. I do agree that it can be very difficult to balance all the various tugs and pulls. There is a good core group of referees where that is what they do.”
Hurd is in a unique position where he is able to take his work from Merrill Lynch on the road, a flexible luxury that some other fellow referees don’t have. The long-term transition with the formation of the PRO is to make the officiating culture one where its base can focus on its craft on a higher, full-time level.
“If the right scenario came up, I would entertain making other career decisions,” Hurd said. “For some, this works well. Some are teachers and from a professional standpoint MLS-wise they are able to get work during the summer when they are technically out of school. For me, there is no summer time off. I work for a high-profile company and so I do quite well for myself. But under the right circumstances, I would entertain the possibility of being a professional referee. The top-level of referees and ARs, you need to be exclusively focused.”
As for Hurd’s immediate refereeing plans, though he does not officiate exclusively, he has performed admirably at higher-level events to the point where by the summer of 2014, he hopes the FIFA World Cup in Brazil is in the cards.
“If it ended today, we’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” Hurd said. “We think highly of the job we did. But we want to go to the World Cup. We want to represent at the highest level.”