Image: George Gansner with his family.
PRO assistant referee George Gansner says family will fill the officiating void when he retires at the end of the season.
The 44-year-old was assigned the Eastern Conference Championship first leg of the MLS Cup Playoffs, but will wave goodbye to the flag after a successful 19-year career at the conclusion of 2015.
His time as an official includes such honors as being assigned to the 2005 MLS All-Star game and the 2007 U.S. Open Cup Final, as well as FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games qualifiers.
Gansner, who made his professional debut as an AR in 1999, is now looking forward to spending his spare time in the company of his loved ones.
“The bottom line on my decision to retire is simple – my family,” he told proreferees.com.
Image: George Gansner on the line.
“I’ve done this for 19 years – well before any of them were in the picture, including my wife – but it’s time they get my attention at the weekend. As much as I would love to stay around for a few more years on the field, it’s just the right time. Everyone says, ‘When it’s time, you’ll know,” and at least, for now, I have no regrets.
“I still remember my first game. I was 12-years-old and on April 10, 1984, I was sent to Fenton City Park in St. Louis for a set of Under-10s boys games as an assistant referee. It’s amazing some of the things you remember in life.
“It’s always tough leaving something you love. My wife calls it the mistress I love more than her. I have a passion for the game, and for the refereeing side of things. I’ve made so many friends and they’ve become my other family really. It’s hard to say goodbye, but I’m looking forward to whatever will come next.”
Gansner’s day job lies in the marketing and business development industry, but he admits he will still be involved to some degree in refereeing, albeit not running the line himself.
“I have a ‘real’ job as they say, and have built a career, so I’ll get to continue to use my skills learned on the field in that side of my life,” he added.
“As far as soccer or refereeing goes, I’m already managing some local recreational referees at my church in St. Louis – Queen of All Saints – and hope to support US Soccer, PRO, and/or CONCACAF with developing assistant referees at the the top level.
“I also can’t wait to become a fan again. The referees will always be my first team!”
Image: George Gansner alongside fellow PRO AR Corey Rockwell
Gansner retires alongside fellow PRO officials Fabio Tovar, Paul Scott and Greg Barkey at the end of this year, with all three of his colleagues having played a major part on his officiating journey that has lasted almost two decades.
He considers their company, and his time spent on the FIFA referees panel, among his best memories, and heaps praise on all who have been responsible in allowing him to succeed.
“Those guys are the best [Tovar, Scott and Barkey]. For years, US Soccer would tell us that they analyzed games from around the globe and compared our performances to those ARs.
“They always said we were the best in the world statistically, getting offside decisions correct. These are the guys they were talking about and I am just honored to have been able to be on the same field with them from time to time.
“My best memories I have in the game are quite recent, and both happened in St. Louis where I didn’t really get to spend much time on the field. First was getting to be one of the referees for the first soccer game played at the new Busch Stadium. It was an amazing feeling to get to do your job in front of your family and at home in that environment.
“The next was a simple ceremony at St. Louis FC, held prior to their last home game recognizing the time I’ve spent in the game. They, and Sporting KC in my last MLS regular season game – the place I started my MLS career, let my family celebrate with me on the field prior to the game. That was important for my kids, which made it something I’ll never forget.
“Making the FIFA panel would also be up there. That’s the equivalent of making the national team to us – in which case, I spent 13 years representing my country.
“I’m very proud of all I’ve accomplished and hope I was able to have a positive impact on the game and its growth in the USA. I want to say thanks to my wife and kids, all of the referees, coaches, players, and even fans out there who have been a part of my career in one way or another. You all helped shape it – and for that I’m very thankful.”
Image: (L-R) Brian Dunn, Allen Chapman, Sorin Stoica and George Gansner.