What Is A Red Card In Soccer

The Ultimate Guide To Red Cards In Soccer

Last updated on October 2nd, 2021

You may have seen a red card during a soccer match.

However, what is it for, and what happens when you get one?

Here’s everything you need to know about red cards in soccer:

What is a red card in soccer?

A red card is given to a player, substitute, substituted player or team official to signify that he is being sent off from the match. This usually occurs when the player commits an offence that is worthy of being sent off.

The red card system was started by referee Ken Aston. He wanted to have a clearer way to communicate to players that they have been sent off.

This is because footballers can come from different countries. As such, the referee may not be able to communicate with them!

As such, Ken Aston decided to use the same colour scheme as a traffic light: yellow for caution and red for stop!

This resulted in the red cards that you see in every football match.

How do you get a red card in soccer?

There are 8 offences that you can commit which results in you being sent off:

  1. Denying your opponent a goal or goal-scoring opportunity with a handball
  2. Denying your opponent a goal or goal-scoring opportunity when they are moving towards goal
  3. Serious foul play
  4. Biting or spitting at someone
  5. Violent conduct
  6. Using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
  7. Receiving a second caution in the same match
  8. Entering the video operation room (VOR)

Most of these offences are considered to be very serious by the IFAB. As such, committing any of them will result in you being sent off!

Can you get a red card for swearing?

You are able to receive a red card for swearing. This is because offensive, insulting or abusive language is deemed to be a sending-off offence. You will be given a red card by the referee in such a scenario.

Swearing is an extremely serious offence, which shows disrespect to the referee, or another player. In this case, you will be sent off immediately.

This happened to Tim Cahill, when he was sent off the pitch after swearing at a match official.

Can you get a red card for dissent?

Dissent is considered to be either a verbal or physical disagreement with the referee’s decision. If you express dissent, you will only receive a yellow card. However if you use any abusive language, you will get a red card for the offence.

Dissent is only a cautionary offence under the Laws of the Game. This usually occurs when you are frustrated with the referee’s decision.

In fact, it has been 7 years since a player has been sent off for dissent! This player happened to be Lee Cattermole, who was notorious for his poor disciplinary record.

However if you start swearing or using abusive language towards the referee, you will be sent off!

As such, it really depends on how you show your frustration to the referee.

Can you get a red card for handball?

You will receive a red card if you deliberately commit a handball offence to deny your opponent a goal-scoring opportunity. If the handball was deemed to be accidental or stopping a promising attack, it may not result in you being booked by the referee.

To be sent off for a handball, it needs to be a deliberate attempt. This usually happens when the goalkeeper is out, and you use your hand to prevent the ball from going past the goal line.

For it to be considered a handball offence, the ball will have to hit either your hand or your arm.

Here are some examples of a player receiving a red card after a handball offence:

One of the most famous examples is Luis Suarez’s handball against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup.

He used his hands to prevent Ghana from scoring a goal. He was immediately sent off for this offence.

However, Asomah Gyan failed to score the subsequent penalty. He hit the post even though the goalkeeper dived the wrong way!

In this case, Gyan’s shot is not considered on target as he hit the post.

Goalkeepers can’t use their hands in the opponent’s penalty area

Even if you are a goalkeeper and in your opponent’s penalty area, you still can’t use your hands to score a goal!

Oliver Kahn was also given a red card after he used his hands to score a goal for his team.

Can a goalkeeper get a red card?

A goalkeeper can receive a red card by the referee, just like any other outfield player. If the goalkeeper commits any of the 8 offences that are deemed worthy of a red card, the goalkeeper will be sent off.

Being a goalkeeper does not give you any privileges, especially when it comes to being sent off! So long as you commit a serious offence, you will still be sent off by the referee.

Some of the common offences that a goalkeeper may be sent off for include:

  1. Handball outside the penalty area
  2. Dangerous play
  3. Arguing with the referee

Can you get a red card for diving?

Diving is not considered to be a serious enough offence for a player to receive a direct red card. However, it is possible for the player to receive a second yellow card for the diving offence, and get sent off by the referee.

In the Laws of the Game, it does not mention that you can get a direct red card after diving. However, you may get a yellow card for unsporting behaviour!

If this is your second yellow card of the match, you will be sent off!

You will receive a red card after accumulating 2 yellow cards in the same match.

Here are some examples where the player gets sent off after receiving a second yellow card for diving.

Can you get a red card after the game is over?

It is possible to receive a red card after match has ended. The referee is able to take any disciplinary action he deems as necessary until he has left the field of play.

This is what the Laws of the Game mentioned about ‘disciplinary action’:

The referee has the authority to take disciplinary action from entering the field of play for the pre-match inspection until leaving the field of play after the match ends (including kicks from the penalty mark).

IFAB

In the Laws, disciplinary action can refer to either a yellow or a red card. This means that you’ll still be able to receive a red card after the match!

However, once you reach the dressing room, the referee is unable to give you a red card anymore.

This is because they can only issue a red card before the players have left the pitch!

Here is an example, where Christian Benteke was sent off after the referee blew his whistle.

Can you get a straight red card after a yellow?

It is possible to receive a red card after receiving a yellow card a short while ago. The Laws of the Game permit two yellow cards (cautions) to be shown to the same player if they commit two cautionary offences, even if they occur very close to each other.

This is what is mentioned in the Laws of the Game:

Where two separate cautionable offences are committed (even in close proximity), they should result in two cautions, for example if a player enters the field of play without the required permission and commits a reckless tackle or stops a promising attack with a foul/handball, etc.

IFAB

So long as you commit 2 separate cautionable offences, you will be sent off. It does not matter how close these 2 offences are when you commit them.

Here, you can see Ashley Cole getting sent off after committing 2 cautionary offences within 15 seconds!

You can even receive 2 yellow cards within the same passage of play!

This usually happens when you make 2 dangerous tackles.

Can you get a red card without a yellow card?

It is possible to get a straight red card without receiving a yellow card beforehand. If the referee deems that your offence is serious enough to warrant a direct sending off, he can issue you a red card without you having a previous yellow. This is usually reserved for violent conduct or serious unsporting behaviour.

There are quite a few ways for you to get a direct red card. This is up to the discretion of the referee and he will send you off if the offence is serious enough.

Can managers get red cards?

A manager is able to receive a red card from the referee. The Laws of the Game permit the referee to send off any team officials that commit a serious offence. This is similar to how players can be sent off as well.

The manager is considered to be one of the team officials. As such, they can be sent off too!

The Laws of the Game states 11 different scenarios where a match official is considered to have committed a sending-off offence. Here are some of the more common offences:

  1. Deliberately throwing/kicking an object onto the field of play
  2. Delaying the restart of play by the opposing team e.g. holding onto the ball, kicking the ball away, obstructing the movement of a player
  3. Deliberately leaving the technical area to show dissent towards, or remonstrate with, a match official
  4. Using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures

This usually occurs when the managers are frustrated by a decision that was made by the referee.

Here is an example of Ancelotti being sent off after this match between Everton and Manchester United.

What happens if you get a red card in soccer?

You are required to leave the pitch after you receive a red card from the referee. This means that your team will be disadvantaged as they have one less player on the pitch, as you cannot be substituted by another player.

When you commit a offence that is deserving of you being sent off, you can no longer take part in the match!

As such, you are actually harming your team as they will be one man down for the rest of the game!

Moreover, you will be suspended for a number of games, depending on how serious your offence was.

How many games do you miss if you get a red card in soccer?

The number of games you miss after receiving a red card can range from one to three matches. This depends on the severity of your offence. A straight red card usually results in a three match ban, while receiving a second yellow card may only result in a one match ban.

The number of matches you miss depends more on the competition that you play in, rather than the Laws of the Game.

If you receive 2 yellow cards for 2 separate offences, you will most likely only receive a one match ban.

This is because the offences you committed are deemed to be less severe compared to a ‘sending off’ offence.

However, you can receive up to a 3 match suspension for a straight red card. This is because the offence that you commit will be deemed more serious. As such, you will be issued with a harsher punishment.

Does a red card player get replaced?

It is not possible for a player to be replaced after they receive a red card. This is a punishment to the team after the player commits a sending-off offence. In this way, the team will be disadvantaged as they have one player less on the pitch.

When you receive a red card, you are really putting your team at a disadvantage!

As such, it is highly recommended that you do not get one.

What happens if a goalkeeper gets a red card?

If a goalkeeper gets sent off, an outfield player is usually sacrificed and substituted out for the team’s reserve goalkeeper. However if the team does not have any remaining substitutes, an outfield player will need to play the role of the goalkeeper for the remainder of the match.

In a football match, there has to be one player on the pitch that plays the role of a goalkeeper for each team. This is according to Law 3:

A match is played by two teams, each with a maximum of eleven players; one must be the goalkeeper. A match may not start or continue if either team has fewer than seven players.

IFAB

This is why when a goalkeeper is sent off, the reserve goalkeeper usually comes on. They are the most experienced player on the pitch to play the role!

In this case, one of the outfield players needs to be sacrificed!

However, a team may already use all 3 of their substitutes before the goalkeeper gets sent off! In this case, one of the outfield players will need to play as the goalkeeper.

This has led to quite a few interesting scenarios where the outfield player dons the goalkeeper’s jersey!

Where do players go after a red card?

When a player gets sent off, they will need to leave the pitch immediately. Players will usually go to the dressing room when they get sent off by the referee. In the case of managers, they may be sent to the stands as they can no longer be in their technical area.

A player who gets sent off has to leave the field of play. This usually means that they will head to the dressing room for the remainder of the game.

This is why some commentators may say that the player will get an early shower when they are sent off!

For managers, they have to leave their technical area once they are sent off. This prevents them from communicating with their team.

Usually, they will get sent to the stands.

One of the most famous examples is when Arsene Wenger was asked to leave his technical area after he kicked a bottle!

Can a player sit on the bench after a red card?

A player is required to leave the pitch immediately when they are sent off. Being on the bench is still considered to be on the pitch, since the player can actively take part in play. As such, the player can only go to the dressing room.

What happens if every player gets a red card?

It is not possible for every player on the pitch to receive a red card from the referee. According to the Laws of the Game, a match can no longer continue when either team has less than seven players remaining on the pitch. The match will be forfeited, and their opponents will win the match.

Law 3 mentions that there must be at least 7 players on the pitch:

A match may not start or continue if either team has fewer than seven players.

IFAB

Once a team receives 5 red cards, they can no longer continue the match. The referee will abandon the match, and the opponents will be awarded the win.

This means that it is not possible for every single player to receive a red card!

However, there may be one huge incident where multiple players get a red card. This happened in a match between Brazilian clubs Vitoria and Bahia.

A total of 10 red cards were issued in the game!

Another game that came close to being abandoned was this heated derby between PSG and Marseille.

A total of 5 red cards were given by the referee in injury time!

What happens if a player on the bench gets a red card?

When a player on the bench receives a red card, he will need to leave the field of play. This is similar to what happens when a player on the pitch gets sent off.

A player on the bench is able to get sent off as well! Just like a player on the pitch, he will need to leave the field of play immediately.

Here are the 2 possible offences that they may commit:

  1. Violent conduct
  2. Using offensive or abusive language and / or gestures

One such example was when Jose Manuel Pinto was sent off during a half-time scuffle with the Real Madrid players.

Can you get a red card and a penalty?

You are able to receive both a red card and a penalty if you commit a foul that is worthy of being sent off in the penalty area. For less serious fouls in the penalty area, you may only receive a yellow card, or no booking at all.

Referees are now given the power to decide what punishment deems fit for the offence. In the past, there used to be a triple punishment law where the player receives a triple whammy.

However, this law is no longer in place! This is because it is considered that the penalty kick recreates the goalscoring opportunity that was lost by the foul.

What is the triple punishment law in football?

The triple punishment law states that a player who denies a goal-scoring opportunity will receive a red card, get suspended and a penalty will be awarded to the opposing team. However, this law has been scrapped before the start of the 2016/17 season.

In the past, you will receive a red card so long as you deny a goal-scoring opportunity in the penalty area.

This may be a bit unfair as you may commit an accidental foul which caused the penalty.

As such, the IFAB decided to scrap this rule before the start of Euros 2016. You may only get away with a yellow card if your offence is not that serious.

However, it is still possible to get a red card and a penalty at the same time if you commit a very serious offence!

Can a red card player play the next game?

When a player receives a red card during a football match, they are unable to play the next game. The player will be suspended between 1 to 3 matches, depending on the rules of the competition.

No matter what, the player will miss at least one football match when they receive a red card. If the player receives an indirect red card, they may be suspended for only one game.

This occurs when a player receives 2 yellow cards in the same match.

However, if you receive a direct red card, you are normally suspended up to 3 matches. This depends on the rules of the competition you are playing in.

Conclusion

Getting a red card can result in very serious consequences for you and your team. You will be suspended for a certain number of matches. Meanwhile, your team will be one man down for the remainder of the match.

As such, it would be best to avoid committing any serious offences on the pitch!

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