The Memories & Spirit of the Game, as only Ken Aston could teach it...
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-= LAW - 12 - CAUTIONS =-
The aim of this page is to learn about Law 12 - CAUTIONS


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Aim is of this page is how to recognize and remember the 7 Caution Offences.


The Seven Caution able Offences:

Some... Questions and Answers:
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Referees must carry out their duties in respect of breaches of the Laws. The Football Association will always support Referees in any steps they may take to stamp out violent and unsporting conduct. Referees always have the best interests of the game at heart and cannot be blamed for the bad behavior of players. Players should therefore be reminded that acts of misconduct and displays of bad temper towards Referees will not (and should not) be tolerated. The Laws of the Game cannot in themselves bring about an exemplary code of behavior that is so often referred to as 'the spirit of the game'. Referees and more particularly players, have a responsibility in maintaining the great historical tradition of football. Teams always wish to win at all costs, but true sportsmen can find small satisfaction in a victory won by unfair means. The 'Spirit of the Law' must be observed as well as the 'Letter of the Law'.

- Once a player has been Cautioned, it is mandatory for Referees (in England) to send the disciplinary Caution Report to the appropriate authority within two days (Sunday excluded).

- Only a player or substitute or substituted player may be shown the red or yellow card. Red or yellow cards should not be shown to team officials, managers, coaches or spectators etc.

Restarts after misconduct:

- If play is stopped solely to deal with a misconduct (when no foul has been committed) by a player on the field of play, the proper restart is an indirect free kick taken from the location of the misconduct. If play is stopped solely to deal with misconduct committed by a substitute, for misconduct committed off the field of play, or by team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner, the restart is a dropped ball taken from where the ball was when play was stopped. Any restart due to penal offences committed whilst the ball is in play, will be the award of a direct free kick or penalty. If misconduct occurs whilst the ball is out of play, the restart is determined by the original reason for the stoppage, for instance, a goal kick or throw-in.

- If play is stopped by the Referee to administer a caution (or a sending off), the game must be restarted from where the offence occurred and not from where play was taking place at the time of the incident.

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The Seven Cautionable Offences:

A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the following seven offences:

Mnemonic ~ # 1

Unsporting Dissent Persistently Delays Distant Entering Leaves

- Is guilty of unsporting behavior.

- Shows dissent by word or action.

- Persistently infringes the Laws of the Game.

- Delays the restart of play.

- Fails to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick or free kick.

- Enters or re-enters the field of play without the referee's permission.

- Deliberately leaves the field of play without the referee's permission.

Mnemonic ~ # 2 is: PUDDLED

Persistently infringes the Laws of the Game.

Unsporting behavior

Delays the restart of play

Distant by word or action

Leaves deliberately the field of play without the referee's permission.

Enters or re-enters the field of play without the referee's permission.

Distance (fails to respect) when play is restarted with a corner kick or free kick.

The phrase "A player is cautioned" means that the Referee must discipline any player guilty of the above seven offences. But man-management by the Referee beforehand may prevent a Caution becoming necessary. For example: following a challenge for the ball, a player becomes frustrated and starts running after the opponent who has fairly won the ball. A good Referee will sense that the player has momentarily lost his composure, and there is a strong possibility that he will attempt to foul his opponent using undue strength. The Referee can prevent this by shouting to the player to calm down. This lets the player know that the Referee is close by and watching his actions. It also distracts the player, bringing him back to his senses. This works to good effect - and most players will respond.

1. Is guilty of unsporting behavior:

Unsporting behavior covers just about everything else not mentioned in the other 6 caution able offences. It covers all types of minor villainy - cheating, hard tackles, holding, diving etc..... This does not necessarily mean that the Referee needs to Caution every offence committed in a game of football. The Referee needs to apply plenty of common sense in deciding the severity of each offence. Football is a contact sport - the act of battling for the ball is an inherent part of the game. A hard two-footed tackle against an opponent would normally produces a Caution, whereas a well-timed tackle on an opponent would not. The Referee must not be too lenient with players - do not rely solely on having a 'quiet word' with guilty players. Experienced Referees instinctually know when to administer a Caution. A Referee who relies solely on his cards to control his game, will not progress very far. Nonetheless - applying cards at the right time can help you to control the game. The Referee should also not allow a player to change his (the Referee's) mind when a Caution has been administered.

"But I went for the ball Ref.!"

Now where have I heard that one before? 

Unsporting behavior can include the following examples:

- (a) Kicking the ball away after a decision has been given against a player's team.

- (b) Goalkeeper deliberately lies too long on the ball.

- (c) Shouting "Leave it" to purposefully cheat an opponent into letting the ball reach you (the player).

- (d) Committing an offence, which prevents an attacking (or defending) move.

- (e) Deliberately handling the ball to prevent a goal but fails to do so.

- (f) Using a deliberate trick to circumvent a Law.

- (g) Making a bad tackle on an opponent.

- (h) Simulating action such as purposefully diving in an attempt to be awarded a penalty.

- (i) Fake an injury or exaggerates the seriousness of an injury.

- (j) Deliberate handball.

- (k) Interfere with or prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands into play.

- (l) Unfairly distracts or impedes an opponent performing a throw-in.

- (m) Verbally distracts an opponent during play or at a restart.

- (n) Unfair deception whilst taking a penalty kick.

- (o) Climbing on the back of an opponent or colleague to gain height when jumping for a ball.

- (p) Dancing about or gesticulating in a way calculated to distract an opponent who is restarting play.

Holding and Pulling

The International FA Board has expresses its concern at the amount of holding and pulling which was prevalent in football today. It recognized that not every instance of holding and pulling of jerseys and shorts was unsporting behavior, as is also the case with deliberate handball. It expressed regret, however, that Referees were not applying the Laws fully in dealing with blatant cases of holding and pulling and issued the following Mandatory Instruction for season 2001/2002:

"Referees are instructed that, in the case of blatant holding and pulling,
the offence must be sanctioned by a direct free kick,
or a penalty kick if the offence is committed inside the penalty area,
and the player must be cautioned for unsporting behavior."

2. Shows dissent by word or action.

Dissent must be deliberately done towards the Referee, Assistant Referee or other players or the crowd. The Referee must allow for a degree of players' frustration in what can be a very taxing game. Dissent is where a player challenges the Referee's authority. This also invites other players to follow suit. This type of bad example can spoil a game. It is important to stamp out dissent very early in each game. Use your man-management skills to firstly warn any dissenting players, but do not fail to Caution any loud outward dissent towards you - else you will find the game very difficult to control. Dissent may be verbal or by action such as a gesticulation of the arms towards you. Beware of Cautioning a player who has reacted out of frustration, for example, after he has missed an open goal. Allow some leeway for actions of this nature. Football/Soccer is a very emotive game; played at high tension and with much passion, so do not be over officious if you can help it.

Dissent is committed by words, actions (including gestures), or a combination of the two. The referee should evaluate dissent in terms of content (what exactly is said or done), loudness (the extent to which the dissent can be seen or heard widely), and whether it is clearly directed at an official (including Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials). The objective in dealing with dissent is to support the spirit of the game, to maintain the authority of the officials, and to reduce the likelihood of such behavior becoming widespread. A goalkeeper who leaves the penalty area (not beckoned by the Referee) to engage the Referee or an Assistant Referee in debate regarding a decision has clearly committed dissent.

To allow players to continue showing dissent is one of the quickest ways for the Referee to lose control of a game. It must be stamped out at the onset. A Referee who manages to keep the game relatively free from dissent is more than halfway towards gaining full control of the game - which will then be enjoyed by all those participating. Deal with cases of dissent firmly from the beginning of the game - otherwise the situation will deteriorate, and you will then need to resort to cautioning or sending off players for offences, which probably would not have occurred had you been more committed in dealing with early dissent.

Following the scoring of a goal, the Referee should make his way quickly to the center circle. Only then should the Referee make a note of the score in his notebook. Moving quickly to the center circle often prevents players running up to the Referee and complaining immediately after a goal has been scored against their team. Staying in the penalty area after a goal has just been scored may invite players to approach you to comment - this will be avoided if you move away quickly - do not give them the opportunity to moan. The fact that you have moved towards the center circle will also demonstrate to players that you have allowed the goal to stand, and that you will not be changing your mind. Payers can behave very foolishly in the heat of the moment, but they invariably calm down very quickly. If a player decides to run 60 yards after you to complain - and into the center circle, then I would suggest that you have a very good case for a CAUTION.

"Sometimes when a player complains it's not because he is dissenting it's because he doesn't understand what he or his teammate has done, so it's important to tell players exactly what they did". (Quote from Pierluigi Collina FIFA Referee)

3. Persistently infringes the Laws of the Game.

Football / Soccer is a physical contact sport where the Referee against the perpetrator can classify most offences committed on the field of play as minor offences that do not require any formal penalizing action. A minor offence can best be described as a single offence that does not warrant a Caution. Before a player reaches the final minor (persistent infringement) offence that warrants a Caution, the Referee should have a quiet word with the player, warning him that the next minor offence committed by him, MAY result in a Caution for him. Referees are not advised to tell the player that the NEXT offence will result in a caution, because this will leave the Referee with no option but to stand by his word. A player, who continually infringes the Laws of the Game by committing several minor offences during the same match, may be cautioned and shown the yellow card. It is not necessary for the multiple minor offences to be of the same type or all to be penal fouls.

This type of caution was introduced into the Laws to allow the Referee to have a greater flexible control over the game. It should be administered wisely and allows the Referee some leeway in dealing with minor offences.

A player who continually offends is inviting retaliation from the opposition, and will increase the tension of a match. There is no set quantity of offences required before disciplining a player for persistent infringement. As a rule of thumb, most Referees allow 3 or 4 fouls at the most before disciplining a player for a culmination of minor offences. However, there is nothing preventing the Referee cautioning a player for persistent infringement for a second minor offence committed by the same player, although this would be most unusual. Referees will normally only caution a player (for persistent infringement) after that player has committed several minor offences. Nevertheless, you must Caution the player on the first foul, if that foul alone warrants a Caution in its own right. When Cautioning a player for persistent infringement, it does help if you explain to that player why you are Cautioning him. Advise the player in a calm but firm manner by pointing to the other areas of the field where he has previously committed minor offences - this clarifies your explanation to him. It also demonstrates to other players watching that you are disciplining this player for persistent infringement. You do not really have to remember exactly where the previous offences took part, if you cannot remember, just point north, south, east and west. The player will certainly not have a clue whether you are right or wrong - and to the other players watching, it looks as though you certainly know what you are doing, even if you don’t!

Persistent infringement may be the result of a player who feels that he has received no protection from the Referee, and has decided to take the Law into his own hands. The Referee should first warn the player that the pattern of offences has been observed and that if it continues, will eventually lead to a caution. In cases where the Referee is aware of a pattern of fouls directed against a single opponent (usually the most skilful opponent), it is proper to warn the guilty team (or individual player) that the pattern has been seen, and then to Caution the next player who continues the pattern, even if this specific player may not have previously committed a foul against this single targeted opponent. The Referee can easily begin to lose control of the game, if a player (or team) keeps fouling the very same opponent who then decides to retaliate himself because he feels that the Referee is not dealing with the situation.

4. Delays the restart of play.

This includes when a player purposefully stands over the ball to prevent the opposition taking a quick free kick. You can see numerous examples of this in top-level games on televised football matches each week. Players will seek to gain time for their defending colleagues by standing in front of the stationary ball, or walking in front of the ball when opponents are attempting to take a free kick. Referees must deal swiftly with this type of behavior; else defending players will take every opportunity to unfairly waste (or gain) time for their team. Payers guilty of this deliberate action should be cautioned.

If you are not 100% convinced that players have deliberately sought to delay free kicks - for example, they may need to pass close to the ball in making their way from the area of the free kick - have a strong word with them and ask them to "Move away quickly". In other words, let all the players know that you will not tolerate 'gamesmanship' type delaying tactics during restarts. One typical example of delaying the restarts of play can be seen weekly in Italian football - players deliberately converge towards the area of a free kick, especially if it is near their penalty area. Players from both sides suddenly surround the Referee. It seems to take an age for free kicks near the penalty area to actually take place. Of course, the defending players do it all on purpose - it gains time for their goalkeeper and defenders to regroup and position themselves to their advantage. Try and 'stamp down' on this type of action - a Caution or two will soon let players know you mean business.

Some examples of delaying the restart of play are shown below:

- Kicks or throws the ball away or holding the ball to prevent or delay a free kick, throw-in, or corner kick restart being taken by an opponent.
- Failing to restart play quickly after being instructed to do so by the Referee.
- Excessively prolonging celebration of a goal.
- Delays in taking a goal kick, throw-in or kick-off.
- Stands in front of ball thus delaying an opponent from restarting the game with a free kick.
- Ties up bootlaces in front of ball.
- Goalkeepers repositioning the ball when setting up a goal kick.
- Giving undue directions to colleagues before taking a free kick.
- The ball having been placed in position for a free kick is sometimes kicked away by a defender to allow the defending team's players to take up defensive positions.
- Sometimes players may refuse to retire the correct distance at the taking of a free kick or corner kick. The Referee is advised to seek the co-operation of the players in the first instance and ask them to move back. But if this approach fails, then the offenders should be cautioned.

Delaying tactics are normally done when the guilty team is seeking to unfairly waste time when they are winning.

Some players make a habit of claiming a throw-in, getting hold of the ball as if to take the throw in, and then walking away with it. And then tossing the ball back to a colleague to take the throw instead - thus unfairly is wasting a few seconds of time. Referees must try to prevent this type of delaying tactic. Acts of this kind are unsporting, and are against the 'spirit if the game' - the perpetrators should be Cautioned or severely warned.

It is not essential for a Referee to administer a caution for every single delay in a game. Referees need to distinguish between those blatant delaying actions for which the Laws of the Game mandate a caution and the remaining minor trifling delaying actions for which the Referee may use his discretion when penalizing a player (or not).

The Referee can prevent taking disciplinary action by encouraging players to "Get a move on" when delaying tactics are anticipated. One prime example of delaying tactics is when the winning team's goalkeeper purposefully takes his time in retrieving and setting up the ball prior to taking a goal kick. Most Referees will be near the halfway line prior to a goal kick taking place, But a gesture by the Referee of holding his arm out and pointing to his watch, is a clear signal to the goalkeeper to hurry up. If a goalkeeper continues to ignore the hastening advice of the Referee and repeats the delaying tactic, then the Referee should caution him.

It is important to differentiate between time wasting and time-consuming. Time-consuming is not an offence. For example, players may pass the ball between themselves and waste time for as long as they like - no offence against the Laws has been committed. So long as the ball stays in play, the opponents have a chance of challenging for possession.

5. Fails to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick or free kick.


- Does not retire at least ten yards (9.15 meters) away from an opponent's free kick.
- Does not retire at least ten yards (9.15 meters) away from an opponent's corner kick.
- A player who runs out of a defensive wall before the ball is in play during a free kick.

The only limitation imposed on the position of players of the defending team during free kicks, is that they shall be at least 10 yards (9.15 meters) away from the ball, unless they are on the goal line between their own goalposts.

The best way to deal with this infringement is to be strong with your instructions to players when you ask them to retreat the required distance. Tell them to move back, and not to encroach, use your voice and hand signals to warn players. Taking this approach will minimize any incidents occurring before the free kick takes place - or if they do occur, will justify you handing out a Caution or two - because at least you had warned the players beforehand (so they have no excuse if they ignore your advice). The Assistant Referee is also empowered to move players the correct distance from free kicks near his area of the field of play, and during the taking of nearby corner kicks.

Corner Kicks: It can sometimes be difficult for a Referee to judge the correct distance that opponent's are standing during the taking of a corner kick, especially if the corner kick is on the far side of the field of play to the Referee. It is more important for the Referee to be near the goal area during the taking of the corner kick, than to overly monitor the opponents' distance requirement. This is even more important when Club Assistant Referees are being used. The Referee will need to make his judgment from some distance away. Use the whistle and hand signals to move players back, rather than approach the corner area to give verbal instruction.

Free Kicks: Defending players will always try and gain time for their team to organize their defense. One popular tactic is to purposefully position themselves within ten yards (9.15 meters) of a free kick being taken by the opposing team. Defenders are very often successful in using this gamesmanship ploy. Referees must deal strongly with these types of incidents. The modern game will almost inevitably contain several incidents of this nature.

Referees are encouraged to instruct encroaching or wrongly positioned players to move to the correct position immediately. There are many ways in which the Referee can do this:
Use the whistle and hand signals and strong verbal instructions to move players back immediately before the free kick takes place. Players who fail to respect the required distance (10 yards / 9.15 meters) away from the free kick) should be cautioned.

During the taking of Ceremonial type free kicks, if the proper distance is not observed, the Referee will need to shepherd the defensive wall backwards. If a defensive wall fails to retire the correct distance (10 yards / (9.15 meters) away from the free kick, the Referee can caution all of the defending players within the wall. But in reality, the Referee will usually only caution the defending player who is nearest to the ball.

Once he has indicated the approximate area of the restart, the Referee should try to move quickly out of the way, The Referee would not normally interfere with the kicking team's right to take a quick free kick. The aim is to get the ball back into play as soon as possible - unless the team taking the free kick asks for help in dealing with encroaching opponents.

The Referee has discretion to disregard the10 yards (9.15 meters) requirement to allow a free kick to be taken quickly.

If the attacking team takes a quick free kick, irrespective of whether the defending team is within 10 yards (9.15 meters) or not, then play must be allowed to continue. If the move does not materialize, and the attacking team then complains that the defenders were not 10 yards (9.15 meters) away, it would be grossly unfair under such circumstances to allow the attacking team to have two chances at the free kick, just because their quick free kick did not prove fruitful! If the attacking team wants to take a quick free kick, then they cannot expect the Referee to provide them with the ten yards' (9.15 meters) distance. If the result of the quick free kick is a goal, then this should be allowed to stand - so long as no other infringements to the Laws have occurred.

6. Enters or re-enters the field of play without the referee's permission.

Once the game has started, a player should not enter or re-enter the field of play unless he has received a clear signal to do so from the Referee. The Referee is the only person who can allow players to leave or enter (or re-enter) the field of play. Players entering the field of play after the game has commenced must wait on the touchline until the Referee has signaled that they can enter.

Law Amendment: An injured player returning into the field of play can enter from any boundary if the ball is out of play. And on the Referees signal. If the ball is still in play, the returning player can only enter from a touchline, and on the Referees signal.

Players entering the field of play should not be allowed to enter, if entry gains them an unfair advantage whilst play is continuing (in other words - try and ensure that an oncoming player does not come onto the field of play in a position that gives that player's team an advantage - as this will anger the opponents and is unfair). This may require waiting a moment or two for play to move elsewhere before allowing the player to enter later, on receiving your signal.

Referees should allow players to return to the field of play (when signaled to do so by the Referee) as soon as possible after they have received treatment off the field, and have recovered from their injury.

Referee must be satisfied that any bleeding has stopped before allowing an injured bleeding player to come back onto the field of play.

If a player comes onto the field of play without your (the Referee's) permission, he must be Cautioned, preferably when the ball is next out of play. But you are within your rights to stop the game immediately, Caution the player, and restart the game with an indirect free kick at the place where the ball was when you stopped play. If the ball was out of play, then you re-start according to circumstances, e.g. Goal kick, throw-in etc....

Players who leave the field with the Referee's permission require the Referee's permission to return back into the field.

Some examples are shown below:

- After being instructed to leave the field to correct his equipment, a player attempts to come back onto the field without having received the Referee's permission.
- After leaving to receive treatment off the field for an injury, a player attempts to come back onto the field without having received the Referee's permission.
- After leaving to receive treatment for bleeding, a player attempts to come back onto the field without having received the Referee's permission.
- A substitute enters the field of play without having received permission from the Referee.
- A player leaves the field of play to take a drink without the Referee's permission.

When a player requests permission to enter the field of play, the Referee does not need to wait for a natural stoppage in the game: except in the case of a player told to rectify or remove a dangerous item of equipment. In this case, the player can only re-enter the field, during a natural stoppage in the game.

7. Deliberately leaves the field of play without the referee's permission.

Deliberately leaving the field of play is when a player leaves the field to take a drink, or to change his footwear or for any other reason without having first received the Referee's permission. This does not include those accidental or tactical instances when a player runs off the field during a maneuver in play, or when a player needs to step off the field to take a corner kick, goal kick or a throw-in etc. These are all accepted parts of the game action. Players should only be cautioned if they 'deliberately' leave the game by moving off the field of play without the Referee's permission.

There may be occasions when an injured player may cross one of the boundary lines to seek treatment without the Referee knowing. Referees should use their common sense in deciding whether to caution a player or not under such circumstances. A strong talking to (or a quiet word) when they come back into the field of play sometimes suffices. Ask them to let you know the next time that they decide to leave the field of play. Invariably, players do not purposefully leave the field of play to deceive the Referee or the opposing team. It is usually done for an innocent genuine reason.

It can also very often happen that an injured player's colleagues will notify the Referee of an injured player exiting the field of play - this is acceptable so long as the Referee is aware and he can then signal his permission for the injured player to leave.

If play is stopped to administer a caution, the restart is an indirect free kick to the opposing team to be taken from where the offence occurred (where the player left the field of play).

If the Referee notices that a player has left the field of play, and he decides to Caution that player - the Referee has three options:

- (a) Do not allow the player back on the field until the ball has gone out of play - then Caution the player before allowing him back onto the field of play.

- (b) Let the player back onto the field of play whilst play is still in motion, stop play immediately to Caution the player - and re-start with an indirect free kick awarded to the opponents at the place where the oncoming player was when you stopped play to administer the Caution.

- (c) Let the player back onto the field of play whilst play is still in motion, wait until the ball is next out of play before you Caution the player.

If an injured player is able to walk off the field of play, he should be encouraged to do so, especially if he is close to one of the boundary lines. When returning to the field of play, an injured player can enter the field from any point on the boundary lines if the ball is out of play. If the ball is in play, the player may only re-enter the field of play from the touchline. In each case, the player must await the Referee's signal.

Some examples of players leaving the field of play without receiving the Referee's permission are shown below:

- Leaving the field of play to get a drink from the technical area.
- Leaving the field of play to receive treatment for an injury.
- Leaving the field of play to be replaced by a substitute.
- Leaving the field of play to change footwear.
- Leaving the field of play purposefully in an attempt to place an attacker in an offside position.

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Questions and Answers:

Question 1: What is the difference between a Yellow card and a Red card:

Answer 1: 'Yellow Card' offences concern minor acts that are committed against the 'spirit of the game' such as 'unsporting behavior' (formally known as ungentlemanly conduct). Unsporting behavior can cover just about anything when players show a disregard for fair sporting play such as tackles that are not extremely violent or over aggressive (but mistimed or reckless). Acts that warrant a 'Yellow Card' are usually due to the passionate and the physical-contact elements of the game, and thankfully, rarely result in serious injury to an opponent. The yellow card is also 'a final warning' to players, that if they "step out of line again", they may receive a second 'Yellow Card' leading to a sending-off. The 'Yellow Card' is a powerful tool in the Referee's armory It is a method that the Referee can use to control the game, and to properly punish and warn perpetrators. Persistent infringement is another example of a yellow card infringement due to a culmination of minor fouls, despite warnings being given beforehand to players by the Referee. The other 'Yellow Card' offences are listed at the top of this page. A player who has received one 'Yellow Card' can remain on the field of play and continue with the game.

'Red Card' offences are major infringements committed blatantly against the 'spirit and game' and the
'spirit of the Laws'. They are acts that are purposefully committed - this type of behavior has nothing to do with the game itself and is generally committed in the heat of the moment when a player has failed to control himself or his emotions for whatever reason. The 'Red Card' is the ultimate punishment for those players who can not behave themselves properly, and who cannot control their tempers or frustrations. Preventing a 'goal scoring opportunity' is also a 'Red Card' offence that warrants a sending off for the perpetrator. A 'Red Card' means an instant dismissal from the field of play for the offender, and can be due to a single act, or a second 'Yellow Card' offence committed in the same game. After the game has commenced, a player sent from the field of play may not be replaced (i.e. that team must continue the remainder of the match with one less player).

Question 2: Who invented the Yellow and Red cards? 

Answer 2: It was England's Ken Aston, Referee of the infamous Battle of Santiago in the 1962 World Cup finals who went on to dream up red and yellow cards. He later become chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee and introduced red and yellow cards to the game. Sadly Ken died at the age of 86 on 23 October 2001. May he rest in peace.

Quote from Ken Aston... "As I drove down Kensington High Street (London), the traffic light turned red.
I thought, 'Yellow'... take it easy; 'Red'... stop, you're off!!! 

Red and Yellow cards were introduced to the game at the World Cup finals in 1970.

Question 3: A defender commits a deliberate foul to try to stop an attack, but the Referee allows play to carry on by shouting "Advantage, play on". The game continues for some time before the ball eventually goes out of play. The Referee then shows the defender a yellow card - for the foul that occurred earlier. Should the Referee have waited so long or should he have stopped play to Cautioned the defender immediately (or very shortly) after the foul occurred?

Answer 3: To allow the game to flow, the Referee had applied the 'Advantage' Law, thus giving the attacking team an advantage. Had he stopped the game immediately the foul had occurred, the advantage to the attacking team would have been lost. The Referee was well within the Laws to allow play to continue. This often happens when a Caution able offence and an advantage occur together. An astute Referee will allow any advantage, and then wait for the ball to go out of play before administering the Caution. There is a slight danger for the Referee when he takes this action; because a second act of misconduct might be committed by the same player in the interim period. It may cause some confusion if you have too many yellow cards "queued up", which results in the perpetrator receiving two instant yellow cards leading to a sending-off. If the original foul warranted a red card, then the Referee should usually stop play immediately, irrespective of any advantage. If you do not stop play immediately, you may find that the opposition may have already punished the perpetrator behind your back!!!!!

Question 4: A two-day tournament is being held where the teams are more "competitive" than my team have experienced in the past. My players are not accustomed to the physical play, and I'm afraid they might get hurt or retaliate against opponents, leading to cards being issued by the Referee. My players are normally well behaved in their own league. I would like my players to reach the qualifying stages of the tournament, so I cannot afford to have players disqualified from tomorrow's games. Help!

Answer 4: Football is very combative, and is played between teams of differing abilities and skills. Such skills, experience and standing can sometimes generate a false confidence - how many times have you seen the underdogs win a game of football - many times. This is what makes football the exciting World game that it is. Different teams, leagues, standards, ethnic groups, geographical regions and Referees of all levels, all have different expectations of how much physical play is deemed normal. At a World Cup standard level, (England v Germany for instance), the game would be played with a strong passion and bustling physical contact between opponents - but you will not see too many complaints from the players themselves. Whereas in a local Park junior level game, teams will expect the Referee to penalize more fouls, and to protect players from over zealous challenges for the ball that would be acceptable at the higher skill levels.

I suggest that you tell your players that they will need to play harder than they're used to and to expect the same in return from the other team. If you talk to the Referee and inform him about the concerns you have about the safety of your players - your information may make the Referee decide to work harder at controlling the game. Once you raise an issue like this with the Referee, if you and your team then remain calm, the Referee may give your team the benefit of the doubt. But if you start complaining, or if your teams start misbehaving themselves, then the Referee may see 'you' in a different light as the trouble-maker (and not the team that you purported to be physical!). A good Referee will automatically respond by being firm with players if the game is becoming too physical. But it maybe that you are being too cautious and it's you who are over reacting - if this is the case, then your players will have to put up with it and not retaliate. I would suggest - regarding sportsmanship - that you do 'not' approach the Referee before the match has started, with these concerns or complain about the way the other team plays - as this could be seen as attempting to influence the way that the Referee intends to handle the game.

Question 5: What is the difference between serious foul play and violent conduct, and why is it that some very violent play is considered serious foul play and others deemed to be violent conduct?

Answer 5: Serious Foul Play covers actions against opponents that are committed as part of the game action, and usually involve some attempt to play the ball. For instance, a player who strongly slide tackles an opponent from behind, may make some contact with the ball during the tackle - but the strength of the tackle is dangerous to the well being of the opponent. This is deemed to be serious foul play because it was done against an opponent during play, and within a playing situation.
Violent Conduct is an action outside of the immediate game play and is simply when a player aims to inflict damage to another person such as fighting, thumping, barging, head butting etc... This can include fighting with opponents, colleagues, spectators, officials, managers, you name it ...... Football Associations usually impose longer and stronger suspensions for Violent Conduct, so it is important that the Referee distinguishes between the two offences (Serious Foul Play or Violent Conduct). Violent conduct happens away from the play action, and is committed with no reference to challenging for the ball.

If you are not sure what offence to put in your report, seek the advice of a more experienced Referee colleague a Mentor.

Question 6: The Law says it's a red card to "deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity" through a deliberate foul. It is also a sending of offence to "deny a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball." What is the difference between the two offences?

Answer 6: Denying a goal by deliberate handling refers to situations where the ball would enter the goal for a score but is stopped by a defender (other than the goalkeeper) using his hands. It also covers situations where the goalkeeper (or any other defending player) handles the ball outside of their penalty area, thus denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. The farther away from the penalty area and goal, the more difficult it becomes for the Referee to be sure that the ball would have gone 'in' for a goal, or whether there was a an obvious goal-scoring opportunity or not . Denying an "obvious goal-scoring opportunity" through a deliberate foul is when a defending player, and the foul fouls an attacking player moving TOWARDS goal prevents the attacking player from a goal scoring opportunity.

To be guilty of denying a goal scoring opportunity, take the following points into consideration:

- a. The attacker must be moving towards the goal.

- b. Only one or zero defenders must be between the attacker and the goal. If there are two or more defenders between the incident and the goal, then this is not an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

- c. The ball must be in proximity to the attacking player, who can play it without much extra effort.

- d. The attacker has a reasonable shooting opportunity, or a reasonable chance of moving towards goal without being intercepted by defending players.

For example: If an attacking player nearing the outer edge of the defending team's penalty area feints, dribbles past the last fullback, and heads towards goal with only the goalkeeper to beat - then the goalkeeper comes out, the attacker runs past him with the ball so there's no defending player ahead.
If the beaten defender or the beaten goalkeeper grabs the attacker and pulls him down before the attacker can take a shot at goal, then the attacker has been denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

If the defending player successfully maneuvers the attacking player so that the attacking player is heading across the field of play away from the goal, and then pulls the attacking player down. This is not deemed as denying the attacking player a goal scoring opportunity because the attacking player was not heading directly towards the goal.

Any kind of foul can be considered to deny an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Players can sent off for the indirect free kick offence of impedance, if the impedance denies an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

Question 7: If a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is denied by an illegal method, the Law says that the offender must be sent off. If a defender standing in the goal mouth deliberately handles the ball to keep it out, but the ball then rebounds to an attacking player who then scores before the Referee has had a chance to stop play by blowing the whistle, technically the defender had attempted to deny a goal scoring opportunity. What action should the Referee take, and should the defending player be sent off for initially handling the ball in an attempt to prevent a goal being scored?

Answer 7: To send the defender off would be deemed excessive. As the goal was eventually scored, the defender did not prevent a goal. The Referee should allow the goal to stand, and Caution the defender for deliberately handling ball. The scoring of the goal and the Caution are sufficient punishment.

Question 8: Following a caution able tackle on an opponent, the guilty player immediately starts remonstrating with the Referee about the award of the free-kick given against his team. The player is making it very clear to the Referee that he is very unhappy with the Referee's decision. The Referee - in an attempt to control this player prior to cautioning him for the foul tackle - strongly warns the player to cease his open criticism. The player ignores this advice and continues to berate the Referee. The Referee decides that he has had enough of this behavior and sends the player off. The Referee tells the player that he is being sent-off for a second caution - but the player does not remember having received the first caution and a yellow card had not yet been shown for the initial foul. Whilst leaving the field of play, the player remonstrates with the Referee by saying that had he know he was going to be sent off, he would have been more careful, and would not have openly confronted the Referee.

Does the player have a case???

Answer 8: The purpose of the cards are to make it abundantly clear to everyone when a caution or sending-off has occurred. Nevertheless, although it is always best precise to show cards when disciplining players, the fact that the Referee did not show a card does not nullify the offence(s). There will be the odd occasions when a Referee will inadvertently forget to show a card - after all, Referees are only human. In the first instance, the guilty player above was guilty of a caution able tackle; secondly, he is also guilty of showing dissent (even after the Referee had strongly attempted to calm this player down). Referees will always need to use their man-management skills to calm players down after incidents, thus preventing further trouble escalating. In this example, the player clearly commits two caution able offences. When cautioning a player, the Referee should immediately tell that player that he is being cautioned - this sometimes prevents further trouble, and lets the player know that he should not commit a further offence. Nevertheless - the fact the Referee did not show the card or tell the player that he was being cautioned for the first offence does not nullify the sending-off for a second caution able offence. In many instances of this nature, players will not let the Referee 'get a word in edgeways' after an offence; and no matter what you do as a Referee, players will not calm down. The fact was, that in this incident, the player committed two actionable offences (unsporting behavior and dissent) and should therefore be punished properly.

Question 9: After the commencement of the second half, a team forgets to tell the you (the Referee) that they have made a substitution during half time. What action should you (the Referee) take?

Answer 9: If you go by the Law book, then you should stop play as soon as you recognize that a substitution has been made without your permission - and caution the substitute. If play was stopped to allow you to administer the caution, restart with an indirect free kick to the opposition, at the place where the ball was when you stopped play. BUT "prevention is far better than the cure". Before the commencement of the second half, always ask both teams if they have made any substitutions during half time. This prevents unnecessary trouble. Count the players before commencing play; this also reminds players that they should report any substitutions (made at half time) to the Referee before the start of play. Players do not normally put a substitute on at half time and then purposefully not tell the Referee about it. It is normally innocently done. In this case, you can have a strong word with the guilty player and his manager the next time the ball goes out of play. I am great believer in educating players when you can, instead of always 'throwing the book' at them - this prevents future problems, educates the players, and builds a much better understanding relationship between the players and the Referees.

Question 10: If a defending player leaves the field of play without permission and re-enters without permission can he be sent off for a 2nd caution able offence?

Answer 10: In theory, if a defending player leaves the field of play without the Referee's permission, then he could be cautioned.

If the same defender then re-enters the field of play without the Referee's permission (and after receiving his first caution), then yes, he could be cautioned for a second time, and then sent-off.

If the defender (a) leaves the field of play, and (b) re-enters before the Referee has cautioned him for the first offence (a), then once again, he could in Law, be sent-off for committing two caution able offences. The same can be said when a player commits a reckless caution able tackle, and then proceeds to show dissent to the Referee - this also could result in two caution able offences leading to a sending off. Of course, the Referee is responsible for deciding when to caution a player, and when not to!

In real life, Referees rarely caution players for leaving or re-entering the field of play without their permission. Invariably, players who leave the field of play normally do so out of ignorance, or to receive treatment for a genuine injury, and have just forgotten to tell the Referee (or maybe that they do not know the Laws covering this). Players rarely leave (or enter) the field of play to cheat their opponents. A strong word with the perpetrator usually suffices. The Referee should use Law 18 Common Sense, before cautioning every time for this offence.

So, in short - the answer to the question is yes (but a sending-off would be an extreme decision to take). One other solution would be for the Referee to just issue one caution - and this is an action that I would possibly consider in such circumstances. Whatever happens........... The individual Referee makes the decision.

It must also be remembered that players are allowed to leave and enter the field of play in certain circumstances - for example, when taking throw-ins or corner kicks, or when running outside of the touchline to run past a defender, or when their momentum takes them outside the field boundaries - this is accepted as part of the game, and players would not be cautioned for this.

Question 11: What is the correct procedure when showing a player a card?

Answer 11: There is no 'Universal' method for showing a player a card. Nevertheless, the main point is not to 'shove the card up the player's nose'. In other words, showing a player a card should be done in a non-provocative, and a non-demeaning way. This will prevent further trouble for the Referee. Once the player's particulars have been obtained, take out the card and raise it upwards and to the side of the player who should still be standing in front of the Referee. Keep the card away from the player's face. Hold the card aloft for 2 or 3 seconds and turn it several ways to allow all the people watching to see which color card has been issued. Don't do this in a showy and an arrogant way. Showing the card gives a clear message to all watching - it should not be done to gratify any weird Referee pleasure.

Referees are prone to what is known as "gaze aversion" when penalizing players. Body language is an important factor in controlling players. Referees should have the courage to look the player in the eye when delivering the card - this gives a clear message that the Referee is punishing that player's bad behavior. Referees should therefore not show any weakness by diverting their eyes when handing out cards. The cards in themselves are not for the benefit of the player being disciplined. Because the player already knows that what his punishment is. The Referee should have already told him. The cards are for the benefit of everyone else watching - so that they know what type of punishment is being given by the Referee.

Question 12: Do you always have to Caution a player if he commits one of the seven caution able offences?

Answer 12: No. If you did, you would not have any players left on the field of play after about 20 minutes. Experienced Referees will man-mange players, and stop any potential misconduct happening. Other Referees will show cards quickly and without warning, and others will completely ignore most of the innocuous challenges and whines. After all, Referees are individuals, and no matter how consistent we strive to be (or are told to be), it is this individuality, which actually adds to the game's excitement. I have always advocated, that mistakes made by Referees (and more so by the players) are an actual part of the game itself, and they always will be. Take away this flaw, bring in technical aids, more officials, Robot Referees etc, and you will kill the game in its tracks. This is not to say that Referees should not strive to be as honest and fair as they can be. The nearer you get to perfection, the stronger the reaction when something does go wrong - and the more excitement is generated in the game when it does go wrong, or when a dubious decision is made. Referees will never reach perfection - my motto is , go out and do your best, but do not worry if you upset one or two people during a game. As long as you have given your honest best, you should go home satisfied. In a weird sort of way, when you realize that you have made a mistake, and when it is too late to change your decision, it actually gets the adrenaline going, both in you and the players - it certainly makes you keep on your toes for the rest of the game!

Directives from above can also play a role in whether or not Cautions should be handed out or not, so listen to the Referee administrator when he sets out his objectives for the season. Some Referees treat cards as simply a letter-of-the-law issue, rather than as flexible tools for game control. In recent years, the lists of yellow and red card offences have become longer and more specific. Cautions were originally intended as severe warnings of a potential sending-off, but these days Cautions are offences in their own right.

The ultimate aim of a Referee is not to Caution and send-off players, but to keep as many players on the field of play as possible - and man-managing players do this before they overstep the misconduct mark!

Question 13: During a lofted shot on goal, the goalkeeper who was off his line, ran back and purposefully hangs on the crossbar, bending the crossbar down with his weight - and the ball which would (or could) have gone in the goal, landed on the top of the goal net. What action should the Referee take, and how should he restart the game?

Answer 13: It could be very difficult for a Referee to decide whether the ball would have entered the goal or not. It could be almost impossible to call with 100 percent certainty. The Referee should caution the goalkeeper for unsporting behavior, and award the attacking team an indirect free kick to be taken on the goal area line, adjacent to where the ball passed over the crossbar. There is nothing in the Laws to cover this act as a "denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity" offence.

Law 12 mentions specific sending off offences for denying goal scoring opportunities:

- (a) handling the ball, and

- (b) denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the players goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick.

These are clearly "denying goal scoring opportunities" - but there is no mention of infringements such as bending the crossbar down. Law 12 does not cover this scenario. As this offence is neither (a) ‘handling the ball' or ' (b) 'an offence against an opponent' (in my opinion) it cannot (in Law) be deemed 'denying a goal scoring opportunity' even though the action committed may have prevented the ball from entering the goal.

The Referee is placed in a very difficult position because of the action of the infringing player. It could be very difficult for a Referee to decide whether the ball would have entered the goal or not. It could be almost impossible to call with 100 percent certainty in all cases. The Referee should caution the player for unsporting behavior, and award the attacking team an indirect free kick.

Law 12 allows the Referee to award an indirect free kick in this instance "An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player, in the opinion of the Referee commits any other offence, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or dismiss a player."
Other options would be to caution the player, and restart the game with a dropped ball, a goal kick, or a corner kick, but this gives the advantage to the defender's team - and this is clearly unfair and against the spirit of the game.

Question 14: A goalkeeper and an attacking player challenging for a 50-50 ball, collide and slide over the goal line into the area beneath the netting and between the goal posts. The ball is stopped on the goal line. The attacking player reaches his leg out and tries to draw the ball back over the goal line. Whilst both these players are still outside of the field of play, the goalkeeper scrambles over top of the attacker in an attempt to grab the ball pinning the attacking players legs preventing him from doing so. Another defender then manages to clear the ball away from the goal. What action should the Referee take?

Answer 14: The area under the goal net and between the goal posts is not part of the field of play. This is a holding offence committed by the goalkeeper occurring off the field of play. The Referee should stop play and caution the goalkeeper for unsporting behavior. The correct restart is a dropped ball on the goal area line adjacent to where the ball was on the goal line when the incident occurred. A penalty kick can only be awarded if the goalkeeper commits a penal (direct free kick) offence inside the penalty area. In this instance, the goalkeeper committed the offence off the field of play; therefore, a penalty kick cannot be awarded. Daft as though it may seem, this cannot be a goal scoring opportunity, because technically the attacking player was not moving towards the goal, and neither was an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty committed against him - because the offence occurred off the field of play!

Question 15: How and when can players drink fluids during a game?

Answer 15: (Source FIFA) The question of how and when players and Referees may drink fluids during the course of a game seems to be the subject of come confusion. We should therefore like to remind you of the following principles:

Because the balance of water in the body is essential for health, drinking liquids during a game is not only permitted by FIFA but actively encouraged. The following rules must, however, be observed so as to avoid disorderliness on the field and injury from missiles being thrown through the air.

- 1. Liquids may only be drunk during stoppages in play.
- 2. Drinks must be contained in plastic bottles and handed to the players on the sidelines.
- 3. It is forbidden to throw bottles or other receptacles onto the field of play.
- 4. The goalkeeper may keep a plastic bottle in the corner of the goal.
- 5. Plastic bottles may be placed around the pitch approximately 1 meter away from the sidelines and goal-lines but only as long as they do not obstruct the Assistant Referees in the course of their duty.

Thank you for taking note of the above
J S Blatter
FIFA General Secretary
Taken from FIFA Circular 619

Question 16: Law 12 says "...cautioned and shown the yellow card...  Now every referee enacts the 'shown yellow card' bit, but what constitutes 'cautioned'? For example, if a Referee chooses not to speak to the player and records only his number, is that Referee 'cautioning' him in line with Law 12? There are two duties for the Referee here: caution and also show the yellow card. What is caution?

Answer 16: The yellow card is not for the benefit of the player as the Referee has already cautioned the player concerned. The yellow card is for the benefit of everybody else watching, to inform them that this player has been cautioned. The caution is the act of the Referee warning the player that if he receives a second caution, he will be sent off the field of play. Even by just taking the players number, the Referee is telling that player (by his body language) that he has been cautioned. The yellow card is just confirmation to others watching, and is not the caution itself.

Well done if you have made it this far to the end of the Law 12 CAUTIONS page.  

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