Knowing the Cards

PlayPH’s defines what the soccer referee’s yellow and red card are all about.

Cover Image: Knowing and following the rules lets you adjust how you play for a call-free game.

Summer is the best time to join the Alaska Football Power Camp, but before you sign up, we’re going to give a you a quick overview of how penalties go in the world of soccer so you know what they’re all about and how you can avoid getting them.

In football, warnings and offenses directed to players, coaches and team officials are called out using penalty cards. Commonly used by referees or umpires, penalty cards are held above their heads while pointing towards the player being penalized for an offense.

Penalty cards come in different shapes and colors, indicating the kind and level of the offense, as well as the corresponding punishment to be given.

In football, Yellow Cards are used as cautions for players committing milder offenses, while Red Cards are raised as a result of a player’s dismissal from the field after having committed the same offenses over and over again or having done heavier offenses.

To get you set up for a call-free day of kicking balls in the field, here’s PlayPH’s guide on how to interpret yellow and red cards; what they mean, what they do, and how they are used.



A yellow card is given to a player as a caution for commiting misconduct or an offense. After showing this to the player, the referee records the offense in a little notebook, this action is called “booking.” Yellow cards may be used for milder offenses but once a player accumulates more than one yellow card, the player is automatically given a red card which means they are eliminated from the game.

There are 7 offenses where you can be called out with a yellow card with:

  1. Unsporting behavior

This is when a player commits a foul or conduct that violates soccers’ rules of sportsmanship. When guilty of unsporting behavior, the referee calls out the player with a yellow card. Examples of this are faking injuries and saying things that distract opposing players from the game.

  1. Dissent by words and actions

This call protects the authority of the referees. Players are usually given the yellow card for this offense when they have rude loud comments about the official or any aggressive action directed towards the referee.

  1. Persistent infringement of the laws of soccer

In a soccer match, infringements and fouls like holding, takling, and tripping are unavoidable, but repeatedly commiting the same fouls and infringements call for a yellowcard.

  1. Deliberately wasting time to delay the restart of play

Another cautionable offense is stalling to delay the restart of a game. It could range from taking so long to exit the field for substitution or kicking the ball in the wrong direction to create distraction.

  1. Failure to respect required distance during the restart of a play with a corner or free kick

Repeatedly failing to follow the specific number of yards of distance from a corner or free kick merits a caution from the official.

  1. Entering and re-entering the field of play without the permission of the referee

While the game is on, nobody is allowed to enter and re-enter the field unless the player is permitted by the referee.

  1. Leaving the field without the referee’s permission

Similar to the rule of no entering and re-entering, leaving the field is also an act that can merit a yellow card if done without the permission of the official.



Similar to the Yellow Card, there are also 7 offenses to which a player can be given a Red Card for. These offenses, compared to the offenses given a yellow card, are more serious and the punishments are also greater.

Here are 7 offenses that merit a red card:

  1. Guilty of serious foul play

Normal fouls like tripping, holding, and tackling that usually merit yellow cards can also be given red cards based on the discretion of the referee. If a foul is endangers the safety of the player greatly, the punishment can be increased to a red card.

  1. Violent conduct

Actions that are very unsporstmanlike like punching, kicking, or attacking an opponent, any action that is not a part of how the game works, automatically merits a red card.

  1. Foul language

The use of insulting, threatening, or offensive remarks that are used to degrade another player will be called-out with a red card.

  1. Spitting

During the game, spitting at anyone is considered a serious misconduct that merits a red card for ejection and suspension.

  1. Denying another player an obvious goal

A player will be punished if he deliberately blocks a shot at the goal by means of holding

  1. Denying the opposing team moving towards the goal of an obvious goal-scoring

A defender who fouls an attacker that is attempting a shot at the goal without the presence of another defender between him and the goalie merits a red card.

  1. Getting 2 yellow cards during the same match

Like mentioned above, 2 yellow cards constitute to a red card that can send a player off the field.



For yellow card offenses during the game, the player who is called out may still continue with the match but if the player receives a red card, the player is immediately removed from the field of play and is no longer permitted to join the rest of the match. The player who received a red card cannot be replaced and so his team has to play with one less player.

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