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Ken Aston Coaching ~ 1962
[S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport]
Barkingside Ilford, Essex

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Sir Ken Aston MBE
‘Giant in the football world’

by...Beth Wyatt | The Ilford Recorder
11 October 2014

Article Reference

Ken Aston Coaching ~ 1962
[S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport]

Some of the most inspirational figures in history have been known for their multitude of talents.

Take prime minister and Woodford MP Winston Churchill, who was not only a politician in his lifetime, but also an Army officer, war correspondent, historian, writer and artist.

Redbridge’s Ken Aston may not have had Churchill’s fame, but he too carved out a career of many paths which led him to almost single-handedly steer football refereeing into the modern era.

And now the inventor of red and yellow cards has been remembered, through Barkingside naming its new town square after him.

Roger Backhouse, a member of the Ilford Historical Society, was one of two people to originally suggest commemorating the referee through the square’s name.

He said: “I thought he would be an excellent choice. He introduced changes that made it easier and better to referee games and left a real impact on the world of football.”

Kenneth George Aston was born in Colchester, Essex, on September 1 1915 and moved to Redbridge at a young age.

He attended Ilford County High School before becoming a member of staff at Newbury Park School - now known as Newbury Park Primary School - in 1935, where he ran the football team.

The same year, Ken qualified as a referee and took part in local league games until the outbreak of the Second World War, during which he served with the Royal Artillery.

The Barkingside man took a step up in his teaching career when he was appointed head teacher at Newbury Park School in 1953, but it was his refereeing success which turned him into a local icon.

Ken progressed to officiating at FA league matches and in 1960 he refereed the first club Intercontinental Cup, which saw Real Madrid beat Uruguayan club Penarol 5-1.

The competition was an annual match between the winners of the European Cup and the South American Copa Libertadores.

Ken also refereed the first-round World Cup match between Chile and Italy in 1962, which was marred by violence and became known as the Battle of Santiago.

At the 1966, 1970 and 1974 World Cups, he was put in charge of all of the referees.

But it was Ken’s innovations which set him apart from other sports figures.

Arguably his most successful creation was that of red and yellow cards. A spark is said to have set off in his mind one day in 1966 when he was driving home.

Looking at a set of traffic lights, he realized that the color system could be used in matches to clarify which players had been given warnings or sent off.

Ken’s other contributions included being the first referee to wear the black uniform with white trim (1946) and suggesting the use of bright linesmen’s flags (1947).

The flags had previously been in the home team’s colors, but sometimes they were in shades which were difficult to see.

Ken went on to be a member of the FIFA Referees’ Committee for eight years and chaired it for four. He was also chief referee instructor for the American Youth Soccer Organization.

The referee, who was awarded an MBE in 1997, died on October 23 2001, aged 86.

But he is still remembered by the community...

The Recorder’s Senior Editorial Assistant, Maxine Leckerman, 47, was a pupil at Newbury Park School when Ken was head teacher.

She said:
“I just have very fond memories.... He was strict, but in a nice way, and even when people left he still had time for them.”

“Everyone loved him and we were very privileged to have him as our head teacher.
He was the most amazing and inspiring man.”

Photo courtesy of... Ilford Recorder 

Ken Aston receiving his MBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 1997
Football remained his life though. "I know I'm a bloody old fool," he once said when admitting that football was still in his blood.
Between 1980 and 2001, Ken Aston held numerous Referees' courses in the USA,
and was overjoyed to see that he had made a significant contribution to the game in America.
As a direct result of his efforts in the USA, Ken Aston was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 1997.

But he did not approach football or refereeing in the style of a headmaster determined to instill discipline.
"The game should be a two-act play with 22 players on stage and the Referee as director," he once said of his philosophy.
"There is no script, no plot, you don't know the ending, but the idea is to provide enjoyment."
Photo courtesy of... Andrew Castiglione ~ USA 

Ken Aston in 1979 with a poster of the Mexico World Cup in 1970 ~ Ken Aston with his souvenirs from around the world ~ Ken Aston playing chess notice the unique nut's and bolt item pieces!!!
Photo's courtesy of... Ilford Recorder 

Ken Aston with wife Hilda in April 1979
Photo courtesy of... Ilford Recorder 

Ken Aston who was a headteacher at Newbury Park School as well as a Football Referee
Photo courtesy of... Ilford Recorder 

Referee Ken Aston (c) looks on as the two captains, Manchester United's Noel Cantwell (l) and Leicester City's Colin Appleton (r), shake hands before the match in 1963.
Photo courtesy of... Ilford Recorder 

World Cup 1966... Members of the team of commentators assembled by the BBC for the forthcoming 1966 World Cup matches in Britain. Left to right: Standing: Frank Bough, Alan Weeks, David Coleman, Walley Barnes.
Seated:Ken Aston, Kenneth Wolstenholme and Arthur Ellis.
Referee Ken Aston inspects a pitch in the snow and fog during the Big Freeze of 1963. Referee Ken Aston on the telephone at his desk in 1962.
Photo courtesy of...
Press Association 
Photo courtesy of...
S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport 
Photo courtesy of...
S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport 
Ken Aston... 1962
Ken Aston teaching the meeting of the captains
with his under-11 school boy team
Ken Aston... 1962
Ken Aston teaching the strategies of the game
with his under-11 school boy team
Ken Aston... 1962
Ken Aston taking a Team photo
with his under-11 school boy team.

Photo's courtesy of... S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport 

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