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Physics alumnus scores international soccer referee job

Drew Fischer says his academic and professional background gave him the analytical skills for demanding role
June 17, 2015
Drew Fischer, BSc’03, was recently appointed one of only three male Canadian referees certified to officiate international soccer tournaments including the Olympics and FIFA World Cups. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Drew Fischer, BSc’03, was recently appointed one of only three male Canadian referees certified to officiate international soccer tournaments including the Olympics and FIFA World Cups. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

What do studies in thermodynamics, a day job in numerical modelling, and a weekend passion for soccer balls and whistles have in common?

For Calgary native Drew Fischer, BSc’03, they are complementary aspects of a life bonded by a common theme: a love for rational and analytical thinking.

Fischer earned a degree in physics, works as an environmental analyst, and ranks among the world's top soccer referees. “My academic background, my professional work and my hobby as a soccer referee complement each other in unique ways," he says.

“For me, it’s all about balance,” says the alumnus who was recently appointed one of only three male Canadian referees certified to officiate international soccer tournaments including the Olympics and FIFA World Cups.

Whether soccer or air quality, Fischer takes an analytical approach 

“In all that I do, may it be in my work analyzing numerical models or making a tough call on the soccer field, I’m constantly tapping into that scientific, Cartesian mindset. I’m also always focused on performance and excellence, no matter what I’m tackling.”

During his bachelor's degree, Fischer delved into quantum systems and developed valuable skills in numerical modelling. This knowledge led to his current role at Amec Foster Wheeler as an environmental analyst.

“As part of my work, I study and predict the anticipated effects of potential future industrial developments on environmental variables such as air quality. The field interests me because it allows me to apply the knowledge and skills I acquired through my university education to real-world issues.”

It’s this same methodological thinking that’s been the source of his success in meeting FIFA’s top refereeing standards.

“On the field, I’m also very analytical,” Fischer says. “My referee style is characterized by an ability to quickly analyze the situation, have a clear understanding of the laws and keep calm — even when I’m in a stadium with 65,000 screaming fans.”

A former competitive soccer player himself, Fischer picked up refereeing at the age of 13 to earn a few extra spending dollars.

“I refereed a ton of local and provincial games and started to believe I could get farther with this passion after being hired by the Professional Referee Organization in 2011.”

Joining this organization has indeed opened many doors for Fischer, taking him all over the Americas where he’s refereed games as far away as Honduras and Costa Rica.

Weekends spent refereeing all over North America, Central America and the Caribbean

“Each year, I cover close to 30 games, primarily in North America, but also in Central America and the Caribbean. I work hard during the week and typically catch a flight on weekends to referee the games.”

His most memorable moment has been refereeing an exhibition game in Dallas between world-famous A.S. Roma and Real Madrid C.F. teams.

"It doesn’t get much better than that when you get to watch some of the world’s best soccer players from the best seat in the house.”

Even when he makes a contentious call on the field and gets booed, Fischer enjoys every moment of his experience.

“The adrenaline rush you get from all the fans is what keeps me going. I’ve also made a lot of friends on the circuit so it’s kind of become a second family to me.”

Now that he’s attained international FIFA referee standards, Fisher is eyeing the next big prize.

“My next dream is to be a referee at a major international tournament, such as the Olympics or a World Cup," Fischer says. “For now, I’m taking it all in and enjoying every aspect of my professional work and referee roles.”

“It’s certainly been a huge asset for me to be able to tap into my scientific background to get this far in both areas.”