Orange Card – Soccer Sin Bin

orange card soccer e1581949762917

I have never seen an orange card in soccer, so what does it mean? I have done some research to find out why it is mentioned.

What is an orange card in soccer? There is no official orange card in soccer. It is used when a decision is unclear but it has also been proposed as a new law.

In soccer, there are currently two cards given out by referees, the yellow and red card. So if there was an orange card, that would in the middle of those two. What does it mean when we discuss soccer and what proposals have there been?

A yellow card would give a player a caution for reckless play and a red card is for excessive force. So an orange card would be somewhere in the middle of, a combination of the two.

Games Using Orange Cards

There are no other games using an orange card. Apart from the two cards used in soccer, there are green, white, blue and black cards. So if there is an orange card in soccer, it will be the first.

Social Speak – Orange Card

Difficult decision

Soccer fans watching TV

You may have heard the commentators say that the decision should have been an orange card offense, but it is kind of phrase which really means ‘I have no idea’ – was it a yellow or a red.

With so many rules in soccer, there are rules that just a matter of opinion. There is a grey area and sometimes it depends on what referee there is at the game. On another day the decision may have gone the other way.

Own Team Bias

When you are watching your team play soccer and there is a foul that normally results in a red card. Your friends shout ‘red card!’, you, on the other hand, you know the player should be sent off and not wanting to be too bias! you shout ‘orange card’!

Those who have never heard of an orange card, will say ‘what?’. You can carry the joke on a tell them it’s a new thing! Of course, it’s just friendly joking and wishful thinking, that your player won’t be sent off.

New Soccer Law Proposal

Brazil soccer fans

It was in 2014 when Fifa presidential candidate Jerome Champagne, proposed the idea of using an orange card to sin-bin a player. Of course, as only a candidate it was just to get the attention of the voters as a forward thinker. He did not go on to win the election, but the theory of an orange card still remains.

Along with the sin-bin/orange card proposal, his other ideas were;

  • Quotas for foreign players
  • Captains only speaking to the referee
  • 10-yard freekick advance for dissent
  • Leniency on a red card is given when a penalty is awarded

Three out of the four are used today with only the foreign player quota rule not being used. This is used in some countries as they can add their own laws.

As reported by the BBC;

Champagne suggests players could be sin-binned for two or three minutes for “in-between fouls committed in the heat of the moment”.

Jerome Champagne

In 2017 Marco Van Basten, a technical director of FIFA, suggest implementing an orange card/sin bin system. He is regarded as a Dutch legend, scoring many goals for the Netherlands/Holland. He is quoted in the Independent newspaper as saying;

“Maybe an orange card could be shown that sees a player go out of the game for 10 minutes for incidents that are not heavy enough for a red card.” 

Marco Van Basten

Sin Bins

From 2019 sin-bins will be introduced into English soccer, at ‘grassroots’ level – Non-pro leagues to youth teams. This was first decided in 2017 by the English FA, so 3 years after the proposal from Jerome Champagne.

Why Sin Bins

Nobody wants to see a player get sent off – well not always! As a viewer on TV, it can spoil a good game – if you are on the pitch or the coach, it can ease the tension.

It is important for the referees to ben be in control of the game and they themselves don’t want to give a red card. With a sin-bin rule and an orange card, it gives the referee more control without ruining the game. Plus as a spectator, it would be interesting to see.


Soccer is a physical game and during a match, the adrenalin builds up and tension can arise easily. In England, soccer has been compared to Rugby, which is more physical, but there is more respect.

Respect for the officials who know the rules and for all people concerned can only be a good thing,

Sin Bin – Orange Card Survey

The English FA carried out a survey after trialing the sin bin system and these are the results;

  • 72% of players wanted to continue with sin bins;
  • 77% of managers/Coaches wanted to continue with sin bins;
  • 84% of referees wanted to continue with sin bins.

English Grassroots Sin Bins

Why Does a Player Get Sent to the Sin Bin?

A player will be sent to the sin bin for dissent, by a player’s words or actions.

Where is a Sin Bin?

A player who is ordered to go to the sin bin must go to the technical area of his team. The area that surrounds the manager and the substitutes.

Sin Bin and No Orange Card!

There will be no orange card shown by the referee when they are sending a player to the sin bin. The referee will instead show a yellow card, point to the card and then point to the sidelines.

How Long in the Sin Bin?

A youth player will spend 8 minutes in the sin bin and an adult will spend 10 minutes.

How Many Players in the Sin Bin?

There is no limit to the number of players in a sin bin, but the laws of the game already state that there should be no fewer than 7 players on one side. So if a team were to have 5 players sent off, the match would be abandoned and the other team would be awarded the points/progression.

Here is an infographic from the FA and their sin bin system;

Sin bin orange card infographic
What does an orange card mean in soccer?

There is no official orange card in soccer. It can refer to a decision that is in between and yellow and a red card offense. Sometimes associated with a sin bin system.

What is a blue card in soccer?

Blue cards are issued for indoors American soccer. It is less than a yellow card – the player must sit in the box for 2 minutes or until a goal is scored against the offending team.

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Soccer Rules for Yellow Cards – Official

yellow card 4496844 1280 e1576159629491

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.


Seven Yellow Card 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 Yellow Offenses for a substitute or Substituted Player

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


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.


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.

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