What is a Red Card in Soccer? Laws of the Game

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

What is a red card in soccer? For those new to the beautiful game, a red card is just another colorful piece of cardboard. But those who know the rules of the game know that when a red card is given, that means that the player that received it is immediately ejected from the game.

In this blog, we will dive into one of the game’s most important rules, the red card, including why a referee may show this card to a coach or player and its consequences.

red card in soccer

Image by Omar Ram

What Does a Red Card in Soccer Mean?

In soccer, a referee shows a player a red card when they break the rules of the game and commit a serious foul, showing unsporting behavior, resulting in their immediate removal from the game.

A red card means that the team of the player who gets the red card will have to play with a man down, or if the coach gets the red card, they will also have to leave the field and leave their team with only the assistant coaches.

Depending on the severity of the foul, a player who gets a red card may have to sit out more than one game, and they may also get a fine, depending on the level and type of league they play in.

red card in soccerImage by Omar Ram

Why do Players get Red Cards?

There are many reasons why a referee might discipline players with a red card, such as:

  • Involved in serious foul play
  • Guilty of violent conduct
  • Use of offensive or abusive language or gestures
  • Kicking, punching, or spitting opposing players
  • Denying the opposing team an obvious goal-scoring opportunity
    • Committing a deliberate foul to stop a play
    • Deliberately handling the ball inside their own penalty area
  • Getting two yellow cards in the same match
    • The first yellow card is given as a warning and the second one turn into a red
    • Yellow cards are given for minor fouls

red card in soccer

Image by Jannik Skorna

Serious Consequences of Getting a Red Card

There are many different consequences of receiving a red card. The main one is that the player must leave the game immediately, leaving their team down a player, and may face a one match suspension or longer. Also, depending on where the foul took place the opposing team will have a different way of restarting play.

For example, if a player commits a serious foul outside the penalty area and gets a red card, the opposing team will get a direct free kick, which is different from an indirect free kick. However, if the red card offense was made inside the penalty area, the opposing team would get a penalty kick not a free kick.

red card in soccer

Image by Austrian National Library

Where did the Red Card System Originate?

The red card in soccer, was introduced at the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico by English referee Ken Aston. He thought of the idea after witnessing confusion between players and referees during the 1966 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal match between England and Argentina.

The lack of clear communication involving disciplinary actions led to huge misunderstandings in the game. Aston’s solution to this problem involved using colored cards to signal warnings or disciplinary actions against players committing offenses, and it is fair to say that it was a smart idea.

red card in soccer

Image by Premier League Youtube Channel

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if a goalkeeper gets a red card?

If a goalkeeper gets a red card, an outfield player must play the goalkeeper position, or the coach can substitute one of the bench goalkeepers for an outfield player.. Either way, if the goalkeeper gets a red card, their team will play with ten players.

Depending on when the red card is given, the coach may have to wait to be able to substitute the bench goalie for the outfield player, who would have to play goalkeeper temporarily. This is why there are rare circumstances where you see an outfield player in goal.

How many yellow cards equal a red card?

A yellow card in soccer is an official warning from the referee given to players for minor offenses. If a player gets a second yellow card, then it turns into a red card.

Conclusion

In conclusion, one of the most important soccer rules for all players to understand is that a red card results in immediate ejection, fines, a potential one game suspension or longer, and other serious consequences that affect not just that game but future games as well.

In this blog I covered everything you need to know about the soccer red card including why players get red cards, its consequences, and where red cards originated from. Make sure to check out the rest of our blogs to learn tips on how to become a better player.

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