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
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
was the quarter-final between England and Argentina. Famous for Alf
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
caution, so they called the FIFA offices, who confirmed that both indeed
cautioned by the Referee.
Aston kept thinking about this issue as he drove home that day, and on
as he approached a traffic light, it switched from
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
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
to lose their personalities and not be able to use discretion and common
"Those people who have never been subjected to the cauldron of the
themselves shouldn't issue directives," Said Ken Aston in an interview with
'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
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
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',
in October 23, 2001, at the age of 86, having etched an indelible mark over
game which he treasured so greatly.
"See you on the...PITCH"