UNIVERSITY of Strathclyde Media Communications officer and football referee John Beaton has urged sporty students to show that they’re on the ball – by challenging them to become Scotland’s next generation of top-whistlers.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, the Scottish Category One referee encouraged Strathclyde students to try their hand at officiating and gave a detailed insight into his double-life.
“I would absolutely encourage students to take up refereeing. It fits the student lifestyle perfectly,” said Beaton.
“Students here at Strathclyde will be studying hard for their degree during the week, so, to officiate amateur football at the weekends, it can be relatively stress-free, good to keep-fit and a good way of earning some extra money.”
Beaton, who started refereeing while he was still at school and continued during his time at Napier University, where he gained a degree in journalism, admitted the chance of earning some extra pocket money was an enticing reason behind the start of his whistling career.
“When I was at school, there were adverts for refereeing courses so I saw it as an opportunity to earn some extra money at the weekend – I didn’t take it too seriously at first,” confessed Beaton.
“I started refereeing junior football when I was about 18-years-old, so I was still quite young. I was doing ok but the reports from my peers always said that I wasn’t fit enough because I wasn’t training as hard, most probably because I was enjoying the student lifestyle at the time.”
However, by the time Beaton had finished his degree, he had slowly began to move up the refereeing ranks and saw it as an opportunity that he wanted to make the most of.
The Motherwell-born Beaton said: “When I left university, I thought to myself, I could be one of those guys who regrets not getting fit and not taking refereeing seriously but when I was around 21, I thought I would knuckle down and make a real go of it.”
Even before being promoted to a Category One referee in 2009, Beaton still managed to experience being the man-in-the-middle for a Junior Cup Final between Auchinleck Talbot and Clydebank with 10,500 fans at Rugby Park and referee an Old Firm reserve match at Ibrox.
But a recent appointment to the top has meant Beaton will have a lot more chances to experience officiating at an even higher level, having already been a fourth-official for a Europa League match in Croatia this season.
This year, Beaton’s career has continued to go from strength-to-strength, after he was enrolled into the prestigious Centre of Refereeing Excellence by UEFA.
And Beaton stated: “To get appointed to the Centre of Refereeing Excellence has been the most defining point of my career.
“This is the second year it has ran and UEFA select one referee and two assistants from every country and they get to go to Switzerland for a ten day training camp.
“You get assigned a coach and work on the different aspects of your game to improve then you go back for an eight-day consolidation course to get a diploma from the centre. It is a real opportunity to take my career to the next level and referee on the European stage.”
Off the field, Beaton has been in his role as Media Communications Officer at the university since February, having previously worked in Public Relations for Strathclyde Police for three years.
Beaton, who is responsible for promoting research and achievements at Strathclyde, is enjoying his job at the university but admits the support of his fellow staff has made it possible for him to continue to lead his double-life.
“Working for the university has been a breath of fresh air. Since I’ve come to the university, I’ve had to ask for a lot but hopefully I’ve put a lot back in and it’s great working here.
“Obviously, refereeing would need to take a backseat if I couldn’t fit in both but my colleagues, boss and indeed the director of the department have been very supportive.”
“Without their help it wouldn’t be possible but I’m grateful that I’m allowed to take time-off at such short notice.”
And in comparison to his stressful endeavors on a Saturday afternoon, Beaton is able to see his Monday to Friday job as a light relief.
“When I referee I feel under so much stress that when I come to the university, I feel none at all and probably come across much more laidback,” admitted Beaton.
“As referees, we are under a lot of pressure from the fans and players to get decisions right. We also have an observer who marks our performances that can determine our rank. Even the introduction of television evidence and newspapers can add to the pressures we face.”
Last season, was a particularly difficult season for Scottish Category One referees and in a job that is often known as ‘the hardest job in football’, it is understandable why some people can be discouraged.
But Beaton hopes everyone is enjoying the new season and would encourage people to get involved in the profession and reap the benefits from it.
“It was a difficult time for the referees last year but these things happen and we need to accept criticism and move on. We’ve got a great relationship with teams and this season has started well and we’ve moved on from the bad publicity,” stressed the ref.
“It is easy to sit and pass comment but try it for yourself and you might actually enjoy it. Being a referee can build your confidence and people skills – it really can change your life completely.”
Beaton believes you can’t plan for the future and is simply enjoying his career while he can, as he looks towards the future with great optimism.
“I’ll keep fit because you only get out what you put in; it’s as simple as that. If I train hard and keep doing the best I can, then ultimately I hope to referee in the SPL and experience a few more European trips.
“I hope to enjoy it and sometimes you can forget that. First and foremost, it’s a hobby and you’ve got to enjoy it. To referee in the Champions League or a proper cup final at Hampden would be a real ambition but the future is still in front of me.”
But whatever the future does hold for Beaton, at only 29-years-old, the referee won’t be looking to blow the final-whistle on his career for many years to come.
If you want to get involved or want to find out more on how to become a referee, then visit: http://www.scottishfa.co.uk/scottish_football.cfm?page=717 for more details.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);