When a referee shows you the red card, it means two things: you have done some serious misconduct and you will have to leave the field of play immediately.
You are not allowed to stay on your team’s bench and you will have to go straight to the locker room.
After you are dismissed, your team will have to continue playing with one player less. You will be banned from the next game and, possibly, for more games to come.
Is there a way to avoid being sent off? Yes, if you know the football red card rules (A). You could also go deeper and know about the history of the red card (B), some frequently asked questions about it (C), and interesting statistics (D).
A. Soccer red card rules
The highest governing body of football, FIFA, defines the offenses that can get players a red card. The following are violations of soccer rules which can get you ejected from the game:
- Serious foul play
Any action that uses excessive force and endangers the safety of another player. It is referee who decides whether a player has committed serious foul play. Challenges from the front or side which the referee sees as dangerous will be punished with a red card.
Kicking, tripping, holding, charging, striking, pushing an opponent, or pulling his jersey are normally punishable by a yellow card but the referee can increase the punishment to red card. A tackle with the shoe studs up are almost always considered grave foul play. Tackling an opponent from behind automatically gets a red card.
- Use of abusive language and spitting
Insults, racial remarks, and other expressions that degrade or attempt to degrade players and officials can get someone off the field. Spitting at anybody during a soccer match is a grave conduct that deserves ejection and suspension.
- Violent actions
Unsportsmanlike actions that have nothing to do with the game will be booked with a red card. These include punching, ckicking, elbowing, or attacking an opponent in anyway.
The most notable example of a violent action charged with a red card happened in the final of the 2006 World Cup, when French midfielder Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi after being provoked by the Italian defender.
- Unfairly denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity
If an outfield player who intentionally blocks a shot to goal with his hands will be punished with a red card. The same punishment is given to a defender who fouls an attacker when there is no other defender between him and the goalkeeper. If an attacker is fouled and there is still another defender before the goalie, the punishment will only be a yellow card.
- Receiving two yellow cards during the same match
Two yellow cards in football are equivalent to a red card and mean expulsion from a game. A player who is ejected for two yellow cards will be automatically banned in the next game.
B. Football red card history
The red card has not been around for very long and it was not until 1982 that they became compulsory in every football game.
The idea to use red cards to preserve order in matches was first thought of by English referee Ken Aston. The inspiration came during the 1966 World Cup quarter-finals between Argentina and England.
Aston saw German referee Rudolf Keitlin having a hard time telling Argentine striker Antonio Rattin that he wants the player out of the game because they did not have a common language. Aston thought that there must be a refereeing signal that is clear and understandable to all.
The English referee later came up with the use of yellow and red card based on traffic light colors. The cards system was trialed in the Olympic soccer games of 1968. Two years later, in Mexico, was the first time the red card was used in a FIFA World Cup.
C. Frequently asked question about red card
- What happens when a goalie receives a red card?
A goalkeeper who is booked with a red card must leave the playing field right away. A substitute goalie can enter to take up his position by replacing one outfield player. If there is no more substitution left for the team, any of the outfield players must take the position of the goalie.
- Can coaches be given a red card?
The referee may send off managers, coaches, assistant coaches, and trainers for inappropriate behavior. However, team officials may not be given a red card. The red card is only for players and substitutes.
- What is the limit for the number of red card that can be given in a soccer game?
FIFA does not explicitly state the limit for the number of red cards that a referee may give. However, a game must be stopped if a team plays with less than seven players.
Therefore, the practical limit to a red card is four per team, a maximum of eight in a single match.
- What is the penalty for a red card in the World Cup?
In the FIFA World Cup, someone who gets a red card for incurring two yellow cards in the same match will be automatically banned for one game. Same is true for a player booked with a direct red card, but his suspension can be extended by FIFA’s disciplinary committee.
The committee examines the videos of the player’s foul to decide if he should be suspended for more than one game.
- Can a player be given more than one red card in a single game?
A player is sent out of the match right after receiving a red card. However, a referee is not forbidden by the rules of football to give more than one red card to the same player during a single game.
Paul Cooper, who plays for an amateur British league, was shown the red card six times in 2009. Cooper refused to leave the field of play after being booked with a red card and was given a second one to force him out of the playing area.
But Cooper stayed on the field and continued arguing with the referee until the count reached six. He is banned for two years.
D. Soccer red card stats
- Football World Cups with the most red cards
Some World Cups are just more physical than the rest, prompting referees to issue more red cards than they usually do. So far, the 2006 World Cup in Germany saw the most number of red cards with 30. It is followed by the 1998 World Cup in France with 23.
Korea/Japan in 2002 and South Africa World cup in 2010 tie in third for the most number of red cards at 17.
- World Cup match that had the most number of red cards
In the match between Portugal and Netherlands soccer team in 2006, there was a total of four red cards raised. Two players from each side were dismissed and 16 yellow cards were given in all.
- Fastest red card in a World Cup game
The earliest red card send off in a World Cup tournament happened in 1986. Jose Batista of Uruguay was dismissed after 56 seconds for tackling Gordon Strachan (Scotland) from the back. (See video)
- Quickest red card booking ever
The fastest red card happened in 2008. Chippenham Town’s David Pratt was expelled three seconds into a match for a potentially leg-breaking tackle right after the ball was kicked off.
- Most soccer red cards in career
Players these days are a lot more careful because of stricter officiating rules. But there is one footballer just have a knack for losing control.
The player who received more red cards than anyone else during his international career is Czech defender Tomas Repka.
The former West Ham player was a good defender but he was a little too tough and could easily lose his temper. Repka racked up a total of 17 red cards during his career.