|A Different Game :
Soccer, Like Football,
Has 22 Players on the Field,
but Unlike Football,
...There Is Only One Referee
by...BOB OATES | TIMES STAFF
December 25, 1992
Everything is different in soccer...
ago in... , a British Soccer Referee named Ken Aston was walking
the streets of London when he came up with one of the differences.
"It was all quite simple," Ken Aston said here recently. "The traffic slowed
down when the yellow warning light came on, and stopped when it turned
The next day, enlightened, he began holding up
red and yellow cards on
the playing field --- yellow to warn a player of a rules infraction,
It was an idea that took hold...
"Soccer is played in 154 countries, and today every Referee uses the
cards," he said. "You don't have to communicate in all those languages.
You just have to know
red from yellow."
Everything is different in Soccer. After rules infractions in, say, an
NFL game, football players aren't warned, they're instantly penalized.
"You have to call them as you see them in baseball, too. Or basketball,"
Ken Aston said. "But not Soccer..."
"The Referee's responsibility in Soccer is to keep the game moving. The
(nature) of the infraction is balanced in with the good of the game, the
safety of the players, fair play, and other things.
"Normally, (a foul) shouldn't be called on a Soccer (field) unless it
matters to the game. In Soccer, every call is a judgment call."
Aston, a former English Prep School Headmaster, should know. At 76
is probably the world's most prominent Soccer Official. A veteran of
years as an Instructor of Referees, he has worked all the big
International Matches as well as England's FA Cup final, the game that
is the British equivalent to the Super Bowl.
Best known for his role with the
red and yellow disciplinary
cards --- which are now mandatory everywhere in organized Soccer --- he makes
two California stops each year, serving youth organizations at the Ken
Aston Referee Camp in Long Beach and the Ken Aston Cup series in Mission
A tall, grey, courtly son of a soldier, Ken Aston doesn't run either the
camp or the tournament. They were simply named for him because of his
stature in Soccer.
"A successful Referee will always be successful in any business or
profession," he told 250 amateur officials, most of them business or
professional men in their 40s, at the three-day Referee camp sponsored
AYSO --- American Youth Soccer Organization.
"It takes the same personal qualities," he said, listing... honesty first
and then dedication, initiative, and the ability to manage people.
In Soccer, however, everything is different...
"I come to you as a liberator from the American concept of team play,"
Ken Aston said. "Soccer is about enjoyment... The Referee is there to assure
that the players enjoy themselves. Whether the score is 7-1 or nil-nil,
everybody wins in Soccer. If they enjoy, they have won..."
In adult Soccer, obviously, things aren't quite the same. But the
function of the Referee is precisely the same, according to an
Ken Aston --- trained Los Angeles-area Referee Administrator, Bruce Davy, a
"During the World Cup matches, you will notice that the Referee has the
same three responsibilities," Davy said. "He'll be out there to maintain
a safe environment, to keep the game flowing, and to see that the
players and spectators all enjoy it."
Everything is different in Soccer. At the World Cup final at the Rose
Bowl in 1994, the officiating will be done by one person, as it always is.
On the same field where the NFL uses seven Super Bowl Officials --- a
Referee as coordinator and six others who are virtually autonomous in
their areas --- the Referee will again be the only World Cup authority.
Two Assistant Referee's/Linesmen or women will help him keep track of the action, but as it
says in Soccer Law 6, "The Referee may or may not (accept) their
Law # 6 +-
Said Ken Aston: "You'll have just one whistle on the field."
One whistle --- and 105,000 voices.
"The final will be a sellout," Ken Aston said, Referring to the last of
Pasadena's eight World Cup games. "The enthusiasm in California will be
all it was for the (1984) Olympics. I predict there won't be a crowd
"Under 50,000," said civil engineer Bill Mason, founder of the Ken Aston
camp, and now Co-Director with Brian Davis, who is also an aircraft
Aston noted that Soccer was the National Game of both America and
England 150 years ago, when both called it Football. In this country, it
was transformed into American Football with hundreds of rule changes
before the dawn of the 20th Century.
Why have Britons, at the same time, kept the game virtually unchanged?
"We English are sure of who we are after centuries of being English,"
Ken Aston said. "Americans have been seeking a true national identity.
"In (Britain), from one day to the next, from the southern coast of
England to the northern tip of Scotland, you never see the Union Jack
flying anywhere --- at Banks or Schools or even Parliament.
In America..., the Stars and Stripes fly everywhere...
"See you on the...PITCH"
Ken Aston, MBE, Football Referee, born on September 1, 1915. Died
on October 23, 2001, @ 86 years.