Soccer Rules for Yellow Cards – Official

The rules for a yellow card in soccer are very much debated and can be a matter of opinion. Let’s look at the rules, to see what they actually say.

When is a yellow card given? A yellow card is given as a caution when a player is “reckless”. For players, substitutes or substituted players.

When I play soccer or coach, there will always be times when you think there should be a yellow card given. Debates go on after soccer matches, to whether it should have been a red card that was shown or just a yellow.

In this article, I have researched the rules from the officials at FIFA, so that there is no debate, although some rules are at the discretion of the referee, so there will always be contentious decisions. Let go through each case and what is deserving of a yellow car.

To keep it simple, all of the examples here are about yellow cards. There are a number of other rules regarding non-caution offenses and more for red cards.

Official Soccer Rules

First, the definition from FIFA about the types of fouls;

Carless – means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making his challenge or that he/she acted without precaution: no further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless.

FIFA Law 12

Reckless – means that the player has acted with complete disregard of the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent: a player who plays in a reckless manner shall be cautioned.

FIFA Law 12

Using excessive force – means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring an on opponent: a player who uses excessive force shall be sent off

FIFA Law 12

For the following examples, we will need to use these three definitions – ‘carless’ ‘reckless’ and ‘using excessive force’. A yellow card is for;

  • Charging an opponent – caution if reckless.
  • Holding an opponent – When the ball is in play and the holding continues.
  • Handling the Ball – When a player handles the ball to break-up attacking play. If an attacker uses their hand to attempt to score a goal.
  • Dangerous play – If a player makes an action that can risk an injury to another player.
  • Impeding the progress of an opponent – If a player holds another player back or blocks a player on purpose, that prevents an attack.

Misconduct

Seven Offenses for a Player

  1. Unsporting behavior
  2. Dissent by word of action
  3. Persistent misconduct/fouls
  4. Delaying play
  5. Not moving away from a ‘dead-ball’ (eg. free kick)
  6. Comes in to play without the referee’s permission
  7. Leaves play without the referee’s permission

Three Offenses for a substitute or Substituted Player

  1. Unsporting behavior
  2. Dissent by word or action
  3. Delaying play

Fouls

Soccer players in a tackle
  • Breaking up an attack, where there is the possibility of creating a scoring chance.
  • Holding a player or their shirt to prevent the opponent from getting the ball.
  • Handling the ball when a player is in their own box to prevent the attacker from attacking.
  • Handling the ball in an attempt to score a goal even if the player does not score.
  • Simulation, where a player tries to con a referee into thinking that they are injured in order to punish the opponent. If a player tries to make-out that they have been fouled.

Unsporting Behaviour

Removing or partial adaption of Jersey;

  • A player removing a jersey when celebrating a goal
  • The jersey is pulled over the player’s head
  • A plyer covers their head with a jersey or mask

For clarification it is not a yellow card when a player lifts up their jersey just on their front – this could be done in a celebration of for wiping their face.

Other Offences for a Yellow Card

Referee deciding a yellow card
  • If a player changes positions with a goalkeeper during the game without notifying the referee.
  • A player kicks the ball when leaving the field, as an example a substitute or medication.
  • Verbally distracting a player during play or a set-piece.
  • Showing a lack of respect for the game, opponent and referee.
  • Marking the field of play, where there should be none officially.

Dissent – Action or Word

Protesting verbally or physically against the decision of a referee.

Delaying Restart in Play

  • Deliberately taking a free-kick from the wrong position
  • Pretending to take a throw-in, only to leave it for another player
  • Kicking or carrying the ball away when the referee has signaled to stop
  • Excessively delaying taking a throw-in or set -piece
  • Provoking an opponent by touching the ball to distract them
  • Obstructing a set piece from being taken by standing in the way of the ball and not retreating

Persistent Fouls

If a player commits a number of fouls throughout the game, regardless if they are the same. A player will be warned by the referee when they have committed a number of foul before being given a yellow card.

The discretion for this is for the referee to decide. If a player commits a number of fouls within a 15 minute period.

Denying a Goal Scoring Chance

If a player tries to stop a goal from being scored – this can also result in a yellow card if the play is allowed to be continued by the referee and a goal is scored. The referee can caution the player when the game is next stopped.

Two Yellow Cards

If two cards are given to a player during a match, it will result in a red card. When one yellow card is issued, a player may be fined or suspended, depending on the number of yellow cards, that the player has previously been given.

Goalkeepers

If a player tries to block the keeper when they are kicking it out of their hands they receive a yellow card.

How long is a player suspended for after two yellow cards?

A player who is shown two yellow cards during a match will be sent off during that game. The player will not be able to play the next match. Further suspensions can be given if the player has accumulated a number of cards.

Does a yellow card expire?

For league matches, yellow cards will be reset halfway through the season. Cup competitions each have different rules.

What happens if a soccer player gets two yellow cards?

A player who is shown two yellow cards during a match will be sent off during that game. The player will not be able to play the next match. Further suspensions can be given if the player has accumulated a number of cards.

Read More…

For more information regarding the rules for the MLS, you can click here.