Ken Ashton - Barking and District Historical Society

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The Man who gave Association Football its cards: Ken Aston MBE 1915-2001
 
 

Norman Gunby
late-Vice President Barking & District Historical Society

 

It is well-known locally that Bobby Moore was born in Barking and that with two other West Ham players, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, was in the England team which won the World Cup in 1966. During his playing days Bobby Moore was resident for a time in Ilford and at Grange Hill.

Another local resident who deserves to be remembered in Football is the late Ken Aston MBE who was born in Colchester in 1915 but from an early age was resident in Barkingside. Injured while playing as an amateur Ken Aston decided to take up refereeing and eventually became a world-class referee. A school-teacher and, later, Head at Newbury Park school he refereed the first World Cup Final at the Real Madrid stadium in 1960 where there was a total of 140,000 spectators. In 1963 he refereed the F.A. Cup Final at Wembley between Manchester United and Leicester City. Among other appointments he was Chairman of the F.I.F.A Referees’ Committee for four years.

But his greatest contribution to Football is, I think, his various proposals which have been incorporated into the Laws of Football and adopted wherever football is played throughout the world. Most important of these is undoubtedly the introduction of yellow and red cards.

When I was writing my book entitled A Potted History of Ilford Ken Aston told me that during the match in 1966 between England and Argentina the referee, a German, wanted to send off the Argentine captain for continuous dissent. The captain, whose name was Rattin, either could not understand what the referee was saying or chose not to do so and at first would not leave the field of play. Consequently there was a delay of several minutes.

The following morning Ken Aston was driving his car through London and thinking of the incident when he was stopped at traffic lights. The idea then instantly occurred to him that the yellow, or amber, light and the red (stop) light could be used in Football, the yellow as a warning for bad play and the red to indicate a sending-off.

Mr. Aston died in 2001 but his ideas live on for not only was he also responsible for the use in Football of the brightly coloured, easily seen, yellow and red flags carried by Linesmen (now called Assistant Referees) in place of the previously used difficult-to-see flags, especially in bad light, but the Numbers Board used when players are substituted, and others including a standard ball pressure.

Additionally, the expression “to be shown a red card” has found its way into modern English dictionaries.

Norman Gunby
12 September 2007
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