Ken Aston

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Ken Aston
Ken Aston MBE.gif
Full name Kenneth George Aston
Born (1915-09-01)1 September 1915
Colchester, Essex, England
Died 23 October 2001(2001-10-23) (aged 86)
Other occupation School teacher, soldier, judge, referee

Kenneth George "Ken" Aston, MBE (1 September 1915 – 23 October 2001) was an English teacher, soldier, and football referee, who was responsible for many important developments in football refereeing - including the yellow and red cards.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Colchester, Essex, he graduated from St Luke's College, Exeter (in which George Reader had been taught just after the First World War). But still qualified as a referee in 1936, working his way through the leagues becoming a Football League linesman in the 1949-50 season, and becoming a League referee. In the Second World War he was rejected by the Royal Air Force because of an injured ankle, and subsequently joined the Royal Artillery before transferring to the British Indian Army where he finished the war with the rank of lieutenant-colonel and served on the Changi War Crimes Tribunal.

Refereeing[edit]

On his return from military service in 1946, Aston became the first League referee to wear the black uniform with white trim which became the standard for referees. Up to that point, referees wore tweed jackets over white shirts with French cuffs, and pants akin to golf knickers. He later explained that when he spied a black flight jacket in the window of a war surplus store, he was delighted with the wonderful assortment of pockets. He immediately bought a couple of the jackets, thinking the pockets would be serve him well as a referee. He changed to black knickers, kept the white shirt, and wore the new black flight jacket, creating the black uniform with the apparent white "trim."

The following year (1947), he introduced brightly colored linesman's flags, one yellow and one red, in place of those provided by the home team, in the home team's colors, which had traditionally been used. He explained that he was doing a game in the midst of a foggy London day. He said that the colors of the home team were beige and chocolate, colors he was unable to see in the fog. He explained that he went to war surplus store on the way home, purchased a pair of red and yellow rain slickers and made a set of brightly colored flags, which he used thereafter, and was never troubled by fog again.

In 1953 he became Head Teacher at Newbury Park School, London, and progressed to refereeing senior League matches.

Ken taught many courses, including a series that was recorded for novice referees. He called the series, "Refereeing is thinking." That title reflected Ken's philosophy as a referee, an officer, and as a gentleman.


Battle of Santiago[edit]

Aston refereed the 1963 FA Cup Final, but he is best known for refereeing the notorious Battle of Santiago, the match between Chile and Italy in the 1962 World Cup. The atmosphere of this match had been inflamed by Italian journalists' derogatory comments on the charms and morals of Chilean women and the condition of the Chilean capital, as well as by the Chileans' disapproval of the Italian practice of using South American players with Italian passports.

The match got off to a vigorous start, with the first player cautioned within seconds of the game beginning. After 12 minutes Italy's Giorgio Ferrini had to be escorted off the field by Aston and armed policemen, who were required twice more later in the match, for hacking down the Chilean centre-forward, Landa. Later, Aston sent off David for a retaliatory kick at the head of the Chilean outside-left, Leonel Sánchez, although Sánchez himself was allowed to stay on the pitch despite breaking the nose of the Argentine-born Italian inside-right, Humberto Maschio, with a left hook; this went unnoticed by Aston and, as none of the assistant referees noticed it either, this incident became the first where FIFA intervened on the basis of video evidence. Sánchez was then charged with violent conduct, but played in the rest of Chile's remaining games.

FIFA Referees' Committee[edit]

Aston did not referee any more games either in the 1962 tournament (having strained his Achilles Tendon), or in later World Cups. He was, however, appointed to the FIFA Referees' Committee for 8 years, chairing it for 4. He was in charge of all referees for the 1966, 1970, and 1974 World Cups.

In 1966 Aston also introduced the practice of naming a substitute referee who could take over in the case of the referee being unable to continue for any reason (this eventually evolved into the practice of having a designated fourth official).

He also successfully proposed that the pressure of the ball should be specified in the Laws of the Game. In 1974 he introduced the number board for substitutes, so that players could easily understand who was being substituted.

Red and Yellow Cards[edit]

Following an incident in the England vs Argentina match in the 1966 World Cup, it came to Aston's knowledge that Jack Charlton had been booked by the German referee, Rudolf Kreitlein. Charlton called the press office, where Aston was ensconced (as Head of World Cup Referees), in order to confirm the information that he had read within the newspaper that Kreitlein had booked him. Aston, driving from Wembley Stadium to Lancaster Gate that same evening, had Charlton's confusion in mind during the journey.

On the trip, as he stopped at a traffic light juncture at Kensington High Street, Aston realized that a color-coding scheme based on the same AMBER/YELLOW (Steady) - RED (Stop) principle as used on traffic lights would traverse language barriers and clarify to players and spectators that they had been cautioned or sent off[1] (another contributing factor being the controversy over Argentine player Antonio Rattín's dismissal in the same match, as Kreitlein sent him off for thinking the player was insulting him, despite not understanding a word of Spanish).

Aston later explained that upon arriving at his home, he explained the dilemma to his wife, Hulda. She disappeared into the other room, only to return a few minutes later with two "cards" made of construction paper. She had cut them to fit into his shirt pocket. Thus was devised the system whereby referees show a yellow card for a caution and a red card for an expulsion, which was first used in the 1970 World Cup.

These cards have also been adopted – with appropriate differences depending on the rules – in many other sports too.

Later career[edit]

Aston became senior lecturer of the Football Association Referees' Panel and Chief Instructor for the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO). In 1997, he was awarded the MBE.

A soccer tournament was organized, The Ken Aston Cup, which was a competition to recognize skilled referees. The tournament was held annually in southern California. As long as they were able, Ken and Hulda were the guests of honor on the fields. They drove around the tournament in a golf cart, observing, chatting, and making new friends. Their golf cart carried a Union Jack, making them easy to locate.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
none
(1960 was the first)
UEFA European Championship
final match referees

1960
Succeeded by
Arthur Holland (England)
Preceded by
Jim Finney
FA Cup final referee
1963
Succeeded by
Arthur Holland