Misconduct (football)

Misconduct (football)

Misconduct in association football is any conduct by a player which is deemed by the referee to warrant a disciplinary sanction (caution or dismissal) in accordance with Law 12 of the Laws of the Game. Misconduct may occur at any time, including when the ball is out of play, during half-time and before and after the game. Further, both players and substitutes may be sanctioned for misconduct. This is unlike fouls, which may only be committed by players, and only against an opponent when the ball is in play.

Misconduct may result in the player either receiving a caution (indicated by a yellow card) or being dismissed from the field (indicated by a red card). When a player is cautioned, the player's details are then (traditionally) recorded by the referee in a small notebook; hence a caution is also known as a booking. The referee has considerable discretion in applying the Laws. In particular, the offence of "unsporting behaviour" may be used to deal with most events that violate the spirit of the game, even if they are not listed as specific offences.

The system of cautioning and dismissal has existed for many decades, but the idea of language-neutral coloured cards originated with British referee Ken Aston, who got the idea while sitting in his car at a traffic light. The first major use of the cards was in the 1970 FIFA World Cup, but they were not made mandatory at all levels until 1982.


A player who has been cautioned and then shown a yellow card may continue to play in a match. A caution may be defined as "the first and the last warning provided to a player for misconduct during a match". When a player is cautioned again and shown the yellow card in the same match, the said player is then shown the red card and dismissed from the field of play.

A player who has been sent off (whether directly or as a result of having been cautioned twice) is required to leave the field of play immediately and must take no further part in the game; failure to do may result in forfeit of the game by that player's team. The player who has been dismissed cannot be replaced during the game; their team must continue the game with one player fewer. If this causes the team to have fewer than the required minimum number players (seven), then the match is abandoned.

When a goalkeeper is sent-off (regardless of a second yellow or a direct red card), the goalkeeper must leave the field immediately. If a substitute goalkeeper is available, he can be brought on at the expense of an outfield player. If no substitute goalkeeper is available, or the team has already made the maximum permitted substitutions, an outfield player has to go in goal. This often happened in the period when teams were only allowed one or no substitutes, and on occasion outfield players were known to perform very well in goal, some even saving penalty kicks.fact|date=June 2008

Post-game consequences

Many football leagues and federations have off-field penalties for players who accumulate a certain number of cautions in a season, tournament or phase of a tournament. Typically these take the form of a suspension from playing in their team's next game after that number of cautions has been reached (typically, two in international tournaments and five in a league season). Such off-field penalties are determined by league rules, and not by the Laws of the Game.

Similarly, a sending off usually also results in additional sanctions, most commonly in the form of suspensions from playing for a number of future games, although financial fines may also be imposed. The exact punishments are determined by tournament or competition rules, and not by the Laws of the Game. FIFA in particular has been adamant that a red card in any football competition must result in the guilty player being suspended for at least the next game without the right to appeal.

In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, any player receiving two yellow cards during the three group stage matches, or two yellow cards in the knockout stage matches had to serve a one match suspension for the next game. A single yellow card did not carry over from the group stage to the knockout stages. Should the player pick up his second yellow during the team's final group match, he would miss the Round of 16 if his team qualified for it. However, suspensions due to yellow cards do not carry beyond the World Cup finals.

The Football Association

As of 2008 in England, if a direct red card is shown the player is dismissed from the field immediately and normally faces a one, two or three-match ban depending on the offence, which exceeds the FIFA minimum. Suspensions apply to the player's next competitive domestic matches, whether these be in League or Cup competitions. [ [http://www.thefa.com/TheFA/Disciplinary/Procedures/Postings/2002/09/24877.htm FA Disciplinary and Suspensions] : the Football Association Official website.] FIFA does not normally expect a red-carded player in a domestic league match to sit out the national cup or international competition (such as the UEFA Champions League); his ban is to be served in the next league match. The same principle applies in reverse for players sent off in European or international competition.

Repeated dismissals in the same season will result in ban being extended by one match for each previous dismissal. For example, if a player who already has been sent off twice in the season incurs a third red card for violent conduct, he will be banned for five games (three for the violent conduct plus two on account of the previous dismissals). The FA will also suspend players every time they accumulate five cautions in a season. Players will miss one match after five cautions, two after ten and three after fifteen. Should anyone record twenty cautions in a season he will be summoned to a disciplinary hearing.

Current FA rules allow a ban to be overturned with a successful appeal for wrongful dismissal. The onus is on the player to prove his case and the ban can be extended if the FA deems the appeal to be frivolous. As such, most clubs will not appeal unless they are certain that they have a good case. Appeals must be made within a day or two of the match, and a decision will always be reached prior to the club's next scheduled match. In the case of a red card that was shown after two yellow cards, the player is dismissed and receives a one-match ban without the right to appeal, excluding mistaken identity.

The FA's appeals policy is generally seen as quite restrictive and only a small percentage of red cards are ever overturned. However, it should be noted that until the current policy was enacted during the early 2000s, the FA's disciplinary policy was somewhat more lenient, and three-match bans sometimes did not take effect until as late as two weeks after the red card was issued. Nonetheless, successful red card appeals have become a source of friction between the FA and FIFA. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has occasionally mooted going so far as to suspend the FA from FIFA and barring England from international tournaments for its continued defiance of FIFA directives. Eventually, FIFA backed down and granted conditional dispensation to the FA system, provided appeals are only upheld "in cases where video evidence is absolutely clear the referee has made a 'serious and obvious error'". [ [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-509154/Cheap-yellow-does-appeal.html Cheap first yellow does not appeal | Mail Online ] ]

The use of video replay has also been a point of contention with regards to its actual or potential use for both red card appeals and retroactive yellow or red cards for diving. Trials for this technology (Hawk-Eye) commenced in England in 2007, and the Football Association has declared the system as "ready for inspection by FIFA". [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/article2274405.ece Use of video replay] , tests of "Hawk-Eye": TimesOnline website.]

Cautionable offences (Yellow Card)

A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he/she commits any of the following offences:
* Unsporting behaviour (includes extravagant celebration, such as covering one's head with one's jersey or removing it over the head, and simulating actions intended to deceive the referee, such as diving; a caution for a poor challenge or tackle is also classified here); until 1997 this was called "ungentlemanly conduct" [ [http://access.fifa.com/en/history/history/0,3504,2,00.html "Ungentlemanly conduct" becomes "unsporting behaviour"] : history at the FIFA Official website.]
* Dissent by word or action
* Persistent infringement on the Laws of the Game
* Delaying the restart of play (includes deliberate time-wasting tactics)
* Failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, throw-in or free kick
* Entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission
* Deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission.

A substitute or substituted player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he/she commits any of the following three offences:
* Unsporting behaviour
* Showing dissent by word or action
* Delaying the restart of play

ending-off offences (Red Card)

A player, substitute or substituted player is dismissed from the field of play and shown the red card if he/she commits any of the following offences:
* Serious foul play
* Violent conduct
* Spitting at an opponent or any other person
* Denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper inside his/her own penalty area)
* Denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick (known as a professional foul)
* Using offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
* Receiving a second caution (yellow card) in the same match

A player, substitute or substituted player who has been dismissed and shown the red card may not remain on or in the vicinity of the field of play or the technical area. Generally, a player who has been dismissed will be expected to proceed to the dressing room immediately.


The referee has a very large degree of discretion as to whether an act constitutes a cautionable offence under these very broad categories. For this reason, refereeing decisions are sometimes controversial. Other Laws may specify circumstances under which a caution should or must be given, and numerous directives to referees also provide guidance.

A controversial change in 2004 to the Laws of the Game championed by FIFA President Sepp Blatter mandated automatic yellow cards for players who remove their shirts while celebrating goals (shirt removal has been considered unsportsmanlike behaviour by FIFA since at least the 1980s, but punishing the player was left to the referee until 2004). In addition an instruction has been in the additional instructions at the end of the Laws of the Game for some time that should a player jump over or climb on to a perimeter fence to the Field of Play, they should be cautioned for unsporting behaviour. This was seen as mainly preventing incidents in professional football matches where crowds had rushed towards players and had led to injuries.

After compiling data from 2,600 top English football matches from 1996 to 2003, a study by Peter Dawson from the University of Bath suggests that statistically referees tend to favour the home team. [http://www.livescience.com/othernews/061030_soccer_favor.html]


If the ball is out of play when the misconduct occurs, play is restarted according to the reason the ball went out of play before the misconduct.

If the misconduct occurs when the ball is in play, play need not be stopped to administer a caution or a dismissal, as these may be done at the next stoppage of play (this is usually the case when the opposing team would gain an advantage in having play continue). When this is the case play is restarted according the reason for the ball going out of play, e.g. a throw-in if play stopped due to the ball crossing a touch line.

If play is stopped to administer a caution or dismissal:
* If a foul has occurred as well as misconduct, play is restarted according to the nature of the foul (either an indirect free kick, direct free kick or penalty kick to the opposing team);
* If no foul under Law 12 has occurred, play is restarted with an indirect free kick to the opposing team.


Non-players such as managers and coaches may not be cautioned or sent from the technical area in the above manner. However, according to Law 5 the referee "takes action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surroundings." This usually results in the expelled individual watching the game from the stands. In some cases, the non-player may have to wait inside the dug out or in the dressing room if being in the stands would cause anger. For example, if a team official has an altercation with a match official which appears to inflame the supporters, that person would need to be removed from the arena completely.

The penalty for a sent-off coach or manager is normally a ban from being in the dugout or in the locker-room for a certain number of matches thereafter. The sanctioning body determines the length of the ban.

ee also

* Laws of the Game
* Foul (football)


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