What Does a Yellow Card Mean in Soccer?

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In a regular soccer match, you might have noticed players getting a yellow card. If you are a soccer lover for ages, you might know what these flashcards indicate

But, if you are new to the soccer-loving army, you might feel confused why they are flashing these cards on players? Is it a foul?  Are they dismissed from the match?

The guide shares an all about what is a yellow card in soccer and when it’s given.

What is a Yellow Card in Soccer?

Before bumping on rules, let’s trail down to the history of yellow cards in soccer. What exactly made the authorities include colored flashcards in the game when they could omit a player for his offense?

Soccer referee flashing a yellow card

History of Yellow Card

It dates back to the 1962 World Cup when referee Ken Aston changed soccer for everyone. In the World Cup, Ken Aston served as a referee for a match between two countries, Italy and Chile. Unfortunately, the game got rough in its early stage, and the referee had to issue a red card to one of the Italian players.

Since the referee and the player didn’t share the exact origin and spoke two different languages, the player used this situation not to leave the pitch and continue with the match. Unfortunately, the friction sparked so much as the player refused to accept the referee’s decision because he didn’t understand anything in his language.

Eventually, the player was escorted off the field. Years later, when Ken Aston was traveling in London, he noticed the traffic lights changing from amber to red. This inspired him to communicate with the players effectively regardless of their linguistic background.

Ken Aston introduced his idea to FIFA, and the officials finally implemented this in the 1970 World Cup that occurred in Mexico. Hence, the idea of using a yellow card came into existence and changed the world of soccer for the better.

Yellow Card v/s Red Card

Today, yellow and red cards are used as an indication of the offense committed by a player on the field. There are some occasions when a player is given a yellow card, while there are moments when they are restricted from continuing a match. So when does a yellow card is given?

  1. A yellow card is assigned to a player of the team when he commits a minor offense. Meanwhile, a red card is given for a serious offense.
  2. A yellow card is more of a warning or caution card used to alert the player that prohibits the spirit of the game. On the other hand, a red card is given to a player who has crossed the line and thus leaves the field.
  3. A player who receives a yellow card can continue his game after few moments. Meanwhile, a red card prohibits the player from continuing the ongoing match till the end.
  4. When a player receives a yellow card, they can be substituted by another player in the team. On the other hand, a player who gets a red card cannot be substituted.
  5. When a player receives his second yellow card in the match, it counts as one red card, and thus, they have to leave the field.

Penalties For Receiving A Yellow Card

A yellow card is allotted to a player who commits defensive fouls, no-defensive fouls, or misconducts while playing. But do you know what else can lead to a player getting a yellow card?

Soccer referee carrying a flag and holding a yellow card

Violation of several rules as per the guidelines stated below can result in a player getting a yellow card.

  • Delaying the restart of the game.
  • Disrespecting an opponent player or referee via words or action.
  • Deliberately entering or leaving the field without the referee’s permission.
  • Touching the ball with hands.
  • Blocking an opponent’s move can result in serious injuries.
  • Spitting towards anyone on the field.
  • A player or a coach can also get a yellow card for any misconduct while the game is on.
  • A yellow card is allotted to a player who fails to respect the distance, while a free-kick, corner kicks, or throw-in is allotted a yellow card.
  • Illegally celebrating a move when the game is not concluded counts as misconduct.
  • A goalkeeper receives a yellow card when they hold a ball for more than 6 seconds.
  • Pulling the jersey of a player to get the ball can result in a foul.
  • Knocking a player without any motive to get the ball is misconduct can result in getting a yellow card.
  • Misconduct with a referee can allot a yellow card to a player.

Here is a detailed explanation of when a player can receive a yellow card.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a Yellow Card Refrain a Referee?

No! A yellow card is only applicable to the players on and off the field along with their coaches. A referee cannot be refrained from the match using a yellow card.

How Long Does a Yellow Card Last?

The effect of a yellow card depends on the rules of the competition. This implies that a player can continue his next round without any charge if it has been decided earlier.

Is There a Fine for Receiving a Yellow Card in Soccer?

Yes! In English Premier League, a player is charged with a fine of 10 Euros with an addition of 15 Euros for every five extra yellow cards.


In a study, it has been observed that some referees are more likely to give a lesser number of yellow cards than they should. To this, they answered that it helped them keep the game’s spirit and manage the game management smoothly.

This statement draws a parallel from human psychology, where people are more likely to forgive one’s little mistake for a stance. But in the end, everyone is different! Unlike those who showed leniency in allotting yellow cards, referees who did otherwise showed a deflection in the calibration of game management.

Penalizing a player frequently can agitate a player and spark their anxiety; this eventually results in abrupt management of the game.

Hence, one should be careful from the start and follow the updated guidelines as mentioned in the rules above so that their sanity stays intact and thus, they can perform well.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.