All sports have laws, rules, and regulations, and depending on which sport you are playing, if you do anything that contravenes them, there is likely to be some kind of forfeit or penalty. With soccer, the most common forfeit is a free-kick to the opposition team where they get to place the ball and pass it or shoot at goal.
If the foul or contravention is severe enough the referee has other sanctions which he can give to the player committing it, and they are a caution or sending off. This is where the colored card system comes into effect so that everyone involved in the game, including the player himself or herself, knows what it is. We are going to look at how the card system works in soccer, and in particular, explain what a yellow card means.
Caution - It's a Yellow Card
We'll start by telling you when the referee shows a yellow card to a player in a soccer match, it means that a player has been cautioned. Another expression that is often used to describe this is that the player has been ‘booked'. This term relates to the fact that many referees carry a small notebook, into which they enter, among other things, the names of any player they have cautioned.
The word caution can often mean that someone has simply spoken to you to warn you about something, and you will often see this in a match. If a player commits a foul, the referee may speak to them to warn them against transgressing again, and although this might fit the dictionary definition of caution, it is not an official caution in terms of the disciplinary rules of soccer. An official 'caution' in a soccer match only occurs when the player is shown a yellow card.
Here's a Quick List of Reasons Why a Player Will Receive a Yellow Card:
• Causing a delay to the restart of play
• Persistent infringements
• Failing to retreat the required distance at free-kicks
• Unsporting behavior
• Re-entering field without Referee's permission
• Leaving field without Referee's permission
• Dissent by word or action
Two Times Yellow Equals Red
The ultimate sanction that a referee can impose upon a soccer player is to send them from the field, and thus that player can take no further part in the game. This means that the team they were playing for has a huge disadvantage in that they will be playing the rest of the match with fewer players than the opposition, assuming the opposition still has their full complement of 11 players on the field.
To indicate that a player is being sent off, the referee will show them a red card. The most common way for a player to be sanctioned with a red card is that they will have committed a second offense worthy of a yellow card, having already received a yellow card, earlier in the match. When this occurs, you will see the referee first show a yellow card, and then they will show the red card.
If an offense is deemed serious enough, the referee can issue a red card to a player, and send them from the field of play, without them having received a previous yellow card. The sorts of offenses that incur what is known as a 'straight red card', are violent conduct, using foul and abusive language at officials and preventing an obvious goalscoring opportunity. An example of the latter is when a defender fouls an opponent who is clean through on goal.
The History of Yellow Cards
The person most responsible for the introduction of yellow and red cards was an English referee named Ken Aston. Aston was refereeing a particularly feisty match during the 1962 World Cup and discovered that the language barrier between him and the Chilean and Italian players, who spoke no English, made it extremely difficult for him to keep discipline, especially when he had to send a player off.
Aston became aware of another incident at the 1966 World Cup when England's Jack Charlton was booked by an Argentinian referee but was unaware of it until he read about it in a newspaper. These issues over the confusion of whether a player was cautioned or sent off troubled Aston and convinced him a better system was needed.
Why a London Street Is Responsible For Yellow and Red Cards
One day while driving along Kensington High Street in London, Ken Aston drew up to set of traffic lights, which in the UK are colored, red, amber and green. As he looked at the lights, he suddenly got the inspiration for a colored card system. On the road, the amber light meant 'Slow Down', or calm down as he put it, if applied to a soccer player. The red light meant ‘Stop', or stop playing, because you are sent off.
He took this idea to the Referee's Committee of FIFA, and the lawmakers of soccer took the idea for colored cards on board. It was decided that they would be colored yellow and red, instead of amber and red. A yellow card would signify a player had been cautioned, and the red card would mean a dismissal.
The first use of yellow and red cards occurred at the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. The dubious distinction of being the first ever yellow card recipient went to the Soviet Union's Evengi Lovchev. Amazingly, no red cards were issued during the entire tournament, which many took as proof that the yellow card system was working.
Yellow and red cards were used again at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany and it was in a match involving the hosts that the first red card was issued. Chile were the opponents and during the game, Chilean player Carlos Caszely was issued with two yellow cards, and as you now know this meant a red card, and him being sent off.
Since then yellow and red cards have been used in every tournament and league around the world and giving someone a yellow or red card has even entered into our language to signify we are giving someone a warning or getting rid of them, depending on the circumstances.