A man smiling with a football stadium in the background
A man smiling with a football stadium in the background
7 min read


The Aussie with the best view of the FIFA World Cup

Chris Beath is the only Australian referee at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar — and he has to work hard for it, covering more than 10 kilometres every match.

Published 21 November 2022 at 5:52am
By Josh Nevett
Source: SBS News
Around the country, Australia held its collective breath. After 120 minutes of frantic football in the FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off between the Socceroos and Peru, it was coming down to penalties.

A mixed bag of spot kicks from each side ended with Peruvian Alex Valera facing off against animated Socceroos goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne for the decider. Redmayne dived low to his right to punch the ball away from goal and

Chris Beath though, watching on in June, had already booked his ticket to represent Australia in Qatar.
A referee looking animated while a player reacts
Chris Beath speaks with Saad Abdulameer of Iraq during a FIFA World Cup qualifier match earlier this year. Iraq failed to qualify. Source: Getty / Mohammad Karamali/DeFodi Images
The 38-year-old Queenslander will take centre stage at the tournament as a match referee. He’s the only Australian among the 36 referees selected and just the sixth Australian ever at a World Cup.

"In terms of the football space, it's absolutely the top. There's no bigger honour … to be selected to go to a World Cup is the pinnacle," Beath says.
To be selected to go to a World Cup is the pinnacle.
- Chris Beath, Referee
The job means coming face to face with the best footballers in the world, from Cristiano Ronaldo to Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, but it’s no easy gig.

He needs to be physically up to the challenge, as he'll cover more than 10 kilometres in a single match amid Qatar’s heat.
A referee showing a yellow card to a player while another player lies on the ground
Chris Beath books Brazil's Richarlison for a foul on Spain's Eric Garcia during the Tokyo Olympic Games gold medal match in 2021. Source: Getty / Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP
And he needs to be mentally ready to cop criticism from players and fans alike on the world stage. More than one billion people tuned in to watch the 2018 final between France and Croatia in Russia.

A team effort

Beath, though, won’t be on his own. Referees travel the world with a tight-knit group of assistants from the same confederation who provide an extra set of eyes on the action.

Beath will have three Australians by his side in Qatar; assistant referees Ashley Beecham and Anton Shchetinin, and video match official Shaun Evans.
Referees and assistant referees standing in a line with footballers on the pitch
Chris Beath (third from right) will work alongside Ashley Beecham (far left) and Anton Shchetinin (far right) in Qatar. Source: Getty / Michael Regan/FIFA
The referee's job is to enforce the game's laws, control the match, and act as timekeeper. Assistant referees decide when the ball leaves the field of play and offside offences, and advise the referee of any foul they might not have spotted. Video match officials are the eyes in the sky; they have access to a real-time video feed and help to eliminate errors by communicating with the referee on the pitch.

Beath and his team have developed a bond over several years and have been training twice a day in the run-up to Qatar.

"Those boys work equally as hard to get there and I'm thrilled that we're going to be there together," he says.
Beath's physical routine involves running - and deep water running to tone the legs - as well as visits to the gym. He’s also assisted by physios and massage therapists.

He additionally takes part in regular technical analysis sessions, watching past matches with an analyst and taking notes on the key players and tactics of each team to be in a better position on match day to make the right decisions.

And just like the players, the refereeing team’s performance on the pitch decides how far they’ll get in the tournament. Referees are scored on their application of the laws of football, fitness and positioning to make decisions.

Beath and his team could be called to referee any match, except, as Australians, a match featuring the Socceroos.

Copping criticism

Beath, who is based in the Redlands, south-east of Brisbane’s CBD, swapped playing colours for referee attire as a curious schoolboy.

"I fell in love with it … it's the best seat in the house," he says.
It's the best seat in the house.
- Chris Beath, Referee
Appointments in youth competitions morphed into a spot on the A-League Men's list before a FIFA listing opened up international opportunities in 2011.

A decade at the highest level has seen him refereeing matches between powerhouse clubs and countries and officiating in the past three A-League Grand Finals. But he's also had to deal with criticism from players, coaches, fans and commentators alike.
A referee showing a footballer a yellow card and pointing.
Chris Beath issuing a yellow card during an A-League match between the Brisbane Roar and the Central Coast Mariners in 2010. Source: Getty / Bradley Kanaris
In 2015, A-League club Sydney FC lobbied Australia's football federation to remove Beath from matches following a series of controversial calls that went against them.

He's also had to defend his decisions post-match on live TV when emotions are high and been the subject of online petitions started by outraged fans to have him sacked from the referee roster.

"There's a lot of pressure that comes with the job and probably quite a few of those [moments to forget]," he says.

"But I think, as with any career in any industry, it's what you do after the fact, how you learn from it and becoming a better person and a better referee."
The life of an ambitious referee is one of baggage carousels and time away from home. A dad of two, he says he couldn't do it without support.

"I've got an incredibly supportive family, particularly my wife who has been supportive from day one. I certainly couldn't do what I do without her."

And it's not his only responsibility; he's still a managing director of a finance company he co-founded before he became a full-time referee, and is studying for a Bachelor of Paramedical Science at Queensland University of Technology, often mid-flight.

Keeping a cool head

Australian referee Ben Williams and his team made it to the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, a record for Australian officials, and he hopes Beath and his team can go further in Qatar.

"Chris is a calm and caring person, as well as a great leader. He's meticulously planned, fit as hell, emotionally aware, politically aware, very intelligent and he’s got a great team with him as well," Williams says.

"Chris, Anton and Ash, they all trust each other. We've got four blokes who will go over there and do the job, they will do whatever is best for the game."

But they'll need to keep a cool head, with Beath emphasising the importance of not getting carried away with the occasion.

"The approach that my team and I have is consistent whether we're doing a game locally in Brisbane or whether we're on the international stage."
Players from two different teams lined up while a referee holds his hand to his ear
Chris Beath listens to a VAR decision on a penalty for Japan during an AFC Asian Cup semi-final against Iran in 2019. Source: Getty / Etsuo Hara
Qatar is also a familiar office. With two Qatari teams featuring alongside A-League clubs in the AFC Champions League, Beath has already spent plenty of time there.

"Qatar almost feels like a bit of a second home for me," he says.

"I'll never forget standing in that tunnel and hearing the FIFA anthem play," Williams says of his experience refereeing at a World Cup.

"It gives me goosebumps just talking about it, even eight years down the track."

"You're not just representing FIFA, you're representing Australia and you’re representing your mates and family."
Beath says keeping his focus on the next decision will be the secret to success.

"Keeping my attention on the next decision pushes pressure aside a little bit because I'm not too worried about the overall scale of the events."

But, he admits, he's still human.

"I still get nervous before each game. I think that's all natural."

Josh Nevett is a student journalist. He will graduate from The University of Melbourne with a Master of Journalism at the end of 2022.

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