Ken Aston, Soccer Referee Who Originated Red Card, Dies at 86
By Ray Cormier
From the N.Y. Times
Published on October 26, 2001
Ken Aston, the referee for one of the most infamous World Cup soccer matches and the originator of the cards used to indicate that a player is guilty of misconduct, died Tuesday in Ilford, England. He was 86 and lived in Ilford.
Aston, a longtime British referee, officiated the opening match of the 1962 World Cup finals in Chile. In a subsequent game between Chile and Italy in Santiago, he replaced the scheduled referee because of building tension. Claims that Italian journalists had written disparaging remarks about Chilean women riled tempers in Chile, and Chile's 2-0 victory in front of 66,000 rabid fans was marred by such rough play that armed police officers entered the field to help Aston keep control.
After retiring from refereeing, in 1964 Aston became chairman of the international referee committee of FIFA, the sport's governing body, and then its chief referee instructor. In 1966, after confusion at a World Cup game concerning disciplinary action by a referee, Aston came up with and pushed for the idea of showing a yellow card for an official caution and a red card for an ejection. He said the idea came to him while stopped at a traffic light. The cards were introduced at the 1970 World Cup finals and are used universally.
Kenneth George Aston was born in Colchester, graduated from St. Luke's College, Exeter, and became a teacher. He served in World War II in the Royal Artillery in India and Singapore, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. At the end of the war, he worked with a war crimes commission looking into the Japanese prison camp at Changi, Singapore. He returned to education, serving 26 years as headmaster of the Newbury Park County Primary School in Essex.
From 1980 to his death, Aston took his love for his sport and for children to the United States through an association with the American Youth Soccer Organization. He instructed referees and their instructors, and preached a philosophy that competition among children should be secondary to having fun. In 1997, he was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his "service to U.S. soccer."
Aston is survived by his wife, Hilda, and a son, Peter, of Paris.
For more information on Ken Aston, please visit:
Ken's funeral will take place on Tuesday, November 6. His wife, Hilda, has asked that no flowers be sent to the funeral. Regards can be sent to Hilda at:
Mrs. Kenneth G. Aston
6 Trinity Road
1G6 2BQ England
Questions can be directed to Alfred Kleinaitis, U.S. Soccer's Manager of Referee Education. Alfred can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 312-528-1272.