The Memories & Spirit of the Game, as only Ken Aston could teach it...
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-= Kenneth George Aston =-
-= The Most Influential Referee Ever? =-
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When the appointed Referee took control of the 1963 FA Cup Final, it was his last game in charge of a professional football match. That was ... ago by Ken Aston, on May 25, 1963. He oversaw a game in which Manchester United beat Leicester 3-1 to claim the famous trophy, and afterwards climbed the famous 39 steps to receive his medal from the Queen.

Usually, that would be it for a Referee. Well done, you've served the game well, now if you could be an Assessor for us a couple of times a month that'd be terrific.

With Ken Aston, his influence on the game of football was only just beginning.

Ken Aston may have taken charge of the biggest game in English football long before 1963, had it not been for intervention of A Hitler and co. Ken Aston first picked up a whistle in 1936, but international matters in 1939 soon took precedence. Ken served in the Royal Artillery before transferring to the British Indian Army.

While serving king and country, Ken Aston could lay claim to being possibly the only man to have donned a gas mask and steel helmet on his refereeing kit.

Serving as a gunner at a bomber station, a match was arranged nearby. Famed for their lack of sense of humor, the Germans ruined it. A JU-88 bomber flew over, and Ken Aston raced to his station to man the guns.

Little did he know at the time that he would later be a focal point of the Battle of Santiago. Only this was a football match, not a political conflict.

The 1962 World Cup was in Chile, and Ken Aston had refereed the opening fixture with such authority that FIFA appointed him to the game between the hosts and Italy. In the buildup to the game, the Chileans claimed that Italian journalists had cast aspersions on their women's morals and beauty, as well as the state of the Chilean capital where the game would take place.

The bitterness spread to the pitch, and Ken Aston was up against it from the start. The first player cautioned received his booking in the opening minute, two Italians were sent off, and Ken Aston was required to intervene in scuffles on several occasions. Think the scenes in the Carling Cup were disgraceful? Think on. This game saw armed policemen enter the field of play on THREE occasions (sorry to go all 'Sun Exclusive' on you there, but I thought it was important). Ken Aston would later say of the game: "I wasn't reffing a football match, I was acting as an umpire in military maneuvers."

So after the aforementioned FA Cup final, Ken Aston retired from active refereeing, but soon answered the call from FIFA, who had asked him to accept a position on their Referee's Committee. He would later go on to Chair the committee from 1970-72, but not before he was in charge of all Referees at the 1966 World Cup in England.

Probably the most notorious game of those Championships, from a refereeing standpoint, was the quarter-final between England and Argentina. Famous for Alf Ramsey labeling the Argentines 'animals' and for Antonio Rattin refusing to leave the park after being sent off, Ken Aston's attention was drawn to another issue.

The story goes that Jack Charlton picked up a newspaper the day after the game, and noted that it said he had been cautioned. He mentioned this to his brother Bobby, and told him he had also been booked. Neither of them had any idea that they had received a caution, so they called the FIFA offices, who confirmed that both indeed had been
cautioned by the Referee.

Ken Aston kept thinking about this issue as he drove home that day, and on several occasions as he approached a traffic light, it switched from Green to Yellow to Red. It struck Aston that something visual is an international language, and by the time the 1970 World Cup swung around, he had managed to persuade FIFA to introduce the system we know now, with Yellow cards for a caution, Red for a dismissal.

This system was quickly taken up by Football Associations around the world, all thanks to a frustrating drive home.

Sadly, Ken Aston began to feel in his later years, some time after his vision was instituted, that it had started to become misused, that Referees were using the Yellow card too provocatively. He also felt disillusioned with the authorities who were allowing Referees to lose their personalities and not be able to use discretion and common sense.

"Those people who have never been subjected to the cauldron of the soccer match themselves shouldn't issue directives," Said Ken Aston in an interview with the American 'Referee' Magazine in November 1996. That was ... ago - I fear that the trends Ken Aston spoke of have not only not been reversed, they have exacerbated.

It wasn't just Red and Yellow cards where Ken Aston stamped his mark all over the game of football.

He was influential in various areas of officialdom. Referees' kit, the color of linesmen's flags, the idea of a Fourth Official (substitute Referee) and the numbers board to indicate substitutes all were ideas from the brilliant mind of... Ken Aston.

Having been awarded the MBE for 'services to US football' in 1997, having worked in the States conducting and overseeing numerous 'Ken Aston Referee Camps', Aston died in October 23, 2001, at the age of 86, having etched an indelible mark over the beautiful game which he treasured so greatly.

"See you on the...PITCH"

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Page updated on... Friday, October 03, 2014 @ 20:38:03 -0700 PM - GMT
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