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-= The Tributes of KEN ASTON MBE #48 =-
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“The Astute... Mr. Aston”

By… Ken Goldman
Football in general and refereeing in particular lost another important personality in the autumn of this year. Ken Aston MBE was born on the 1st September 1915 and died on the 23rd October 2001 aged 86. A teacher of academic subjects as a schoolmaster as well as a teacher of both the Laws of football and more importantly the practice of refereeing he had an influence on our National game which unfortunately has not been recognized to the full. Here we try and pay a belated tribute to a truly remarkable man.

"During that competition, the concept of Red and Yellow Cards was born. They came about because both Bobby and Jack Charlton were cautioned in that Argentina game but they did not know about it until they subsequently read it in the newspapers. Neither did Sir AIf Ramsey so FIFA were questioned for confirmation. I was sitting in the office set aside for FIFA when the call came through. The Referees' Secretary referred to the Referee's Report and confirmed they had been cautioned. That set me thinking about the confusion. On my way home going through Kensington, I ran into a number of yellow and red traffic lights. I was forced to stop even though I was in a hurry. I calmed myself down by saying "yellow - take it easy; red - stop". The cards were theoretically born then and I introduced them in Mexico in the 1970 World Cup. Initially whilst they have been helpful ever after in that respect, they were not primarily introduced to overcome language difficulties. Personally I had no difficulty cautioning foreign players since I did it with mime and gesture. However I am pleased to see others have benefited from the Cards meaning players, Managers and spectators who now know who has been cautioned, providing the Card system is administered properly. Unfortunately the frequent issue of Yellow Cards is reducing the Referee's ability to talk to players and develop his/her skills of man - management.

"Referring to the creation of the modern "Assistants" flags, these arose in an unusual manner. The flags used to be in the colors of the "Home" Club. About to drive to Dulwich Hamlet on a miserably wet November Saturday afternoon, before floodlights were ever used, I was concerned I might not be able to see the flags that would have been in colors of chocolate and pink. I therefore borrowed some orange dusters from my wife stuck them on the ends of some warped cut down billiard cues and then asked my Linesman to use them. They were so successful that I experimented again and next used some material left over from the Second World War used to identify to our Air Force that we were friendly troops. It was florescent yellow. Again they were successful and the F.A took up the idea developing red as well as yellow, florescent colors. "The unnecessarily cumbersome procedure of getting players off the field who were pretending they had not heard their Coach, thus holding up the game, also exercised my mind. I devised the idea of numbered boards and thus introduced the "Substitute Board" initially in the 1974 World Cup in Germany."

Ken Aston... had few unfulfilled ambitions, but he confessed he would have loved the job of Director of Referees in the Football League. He said he wanted that position "In order to weld all the domestic Referees into a team and get them to work in unison, as I did with the World Cup Referees in 1970 and 1974".

So that the refereeing side of the game is able to keep up with modern methods and current trends especially at professional level, it is imperative we discover, (if it is conceivable) another Ken Aston as soon as possible, otherwise we will be unable to replace the irreplaceable!


This should not be the case, as the higher you progress up the refereeing ladder, the more lines you are likely to do. Running the line is no different from being a referee; except that you are there to assist the man in the middle and that you have a flag instead of a whistle.

You should not have the attitude, `I'm only the linesman' because in fact it can be more difficult to run the line than to referee. You have so much to be aware of, where's the second to last defender, is that forward in an offside position really interfering with play or seeking to gain an advantage? You have to be the `eyes' behind the back of the referee and if on that side of the field, control the dugout and substitutions. Of course, there's throw-ins to consider and help you may have to give the referee on your diagonal. So if we go out with a negative attitude, we can become more of a burden to the referee than an assistant.

When the next time you receive an appointment to run the line occurs, be pleased. Prepare for the game in exactly the same way as if you were to be the referee. Be confident in your approach.

When the referee gives his pre match instructions, listen carefully to what he tells you. If you have any problems or do not understand clearly what he has asked you to do, ask him to clarify what he wants. Better to sort the matter out before the game than have trouble during it. In the match, carry out your duties as instructed.

So when you receive your next appointments, do you think, `Oh, I'm only running the line next week?

Hopefully, if you approach the match in the right frame of mind, you will find that lining can be an enjoyable experience and not a chore.

... Ken Aston MBE

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