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-= The Tributes of KEN ASTON MBE
Oct. 29, 2001
KENNETH ASTON, who has died aged 86, was a World Cup referee who among many other innovations introduced the red and yellow cards into Association football.
The idea of using colored cards came to Aston in 1966 when he was watching a World Cup match between England and Argentina. The game was refereed by a German who decided to send off one of the Argentines, but the player either did not understand or did not want to understand what the referee was telling him.
The next morning Aston was thinking about this incident while driving his car, when he was stopped at traffic lights. He wondered whether the effectiveness of color signals as a way of conveying orders could have an application on the football field.
The idea was subsequently adopted by Association football at national and international level.
Kenneth George Aston was born at Colchester, Essex, on September 1 1915 and educated at Ilford County High School. In 1935 he joined the staff of Newbury Park School where in addition to his teaching duties he ran the school football team.
In 1935 he qualified as a football referee and took part in League games until the outbreak of the Second World War, in which he served with the Royal Artillery, before being seconded to the Indian Army in 1944. After the war, in 1946, he became the first referee in League football to wear the black uniform with white trim which became the standard uniform for football referees. The following year he introduced bright yellow linesmen's flags to replace pennants in the home team's colors.
In 1953 he became head of Newbury Park School and as a referee progressed to senior League matches. He refereed the European Nations Cup final in 1961, and was a referee in the World Cup in Chile in 1962 at a match between the home side and Italy, when he was presented with what David Coleman, the BBC commentator, described as: "the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football possibly in the history of the game."
Trouble at the match had been likely since Italian journalists had been reported as questioning the appeal and morals of local women; the first booking took place within seconds, and Italy's Giorgio Ferrini had to be escorted off the field by Aston and armed policemen after only 12 minutes. The police appeared on the pitch twice more in a game that began to resemble a boxing match and which Chile won 2-0.
But however memorable the "Battle of Santiago" seemed, it was a tiny part of Aston's ultimate influence on the game. He never officiated at another World Cup match, but the following year refereed the FA Cup final at Wembley when Manchester United beat Leicester City by 3-1. For eight years he was a member of the Fifa Referees' Committee, and chaired the committee for four years. He was in charge of World Cup referees in 1966, 1970 and 1974.
As well as introducing the red and yellow card system, in 1966 Aston instituted the practice of appointing a substitute referee - normally the senior linesman - who can take over in the event of the match referee being unable to continue. At the same time, he proposed - again successfully - that the pressure of the ball should be specified in the Laws of the Game.
In 1974, he introduced the number board for substitutes to ensure that it was perfectly clear which player was being called off the pitch.
During his chairmanship of the FIFA Referees' Committee, he proposed that when a match had ended in a draw after extra time, the side which had the fewer free kicks and yellow and red cards declared against it should be declared the winner. This proposal was rejected by the committee, which chose penalty goals.
Aston became senior lecturer of the Football Association Referees' Panel and chief instructor for the American Youth Soccer Organization. He was life President of Ilford Football Club.
For 14 years he served as a magistrate on the Inner London Bench and was a member of the Victim Witness Support Team at Snaresbrook Crown Court, east London.
In 1994, he was called as a witness in a case brought by the Northern Ireland defender John O'Neill, in which Aston testified that John Fashanu's tackle, during a game in December 1987, had been: "the cruelest, most dangerous foul in the game. It was the clearest case I have seen of a player jumping on an opponent."
The following year, he alleged that he had been offered £25,000 for the names, addresses and telephone numbers of players and referees by Far Eastern bookmakers keen to fix matches. Aston informed the FA at once.
Aston was appointed MBE in 1997.
He is survived by his wife and son.
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