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Question Number: 32022

Law 5 - The Referee 11/15/2017

RE: Adult

Donald Fraser of City, England asks...

Please advise the correct procedure when a referee cautions a player.


Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Don,
the referee can only do so much to promote fair play. The PLAYERS must also perform their duties under this inclusive banner. When they do not they risk being sanctioned for misconduct by the referee. If a player acts in an unprofessional manner or violates certain LOTG or tackles the opposition in a reckless manner the referee has the right/option to stop play or if play is stopped already, caution & show this player a yellow card at the stoppage. We call this a booking! in effect a warning to cease and desist such actions or face further consequences! The player's name is recorded with the time & nature of the offence, usually out loud to make the ARs aware as well as try to get eye contact with the individual being carded making him aware this is occurring. We try not to get into a: 'You better come here power play position of demanding they acknowledge us so in walking away a card shown in behind your back does not make the situation any less serious or punishment less severe in fact attitude might get you in greater trouble. I generally make the restart ceremonial or at least a whistled restart after showing a card .

There are rare occasions when players are or maybe unaware a card was or has been shown for say an action occurring off the FOP in the dressing room or the or just as a match ended as they storm off but we should try to inform the coaching staff if such a caution is being considered to advise them it will be in the match records. This is particularity important if it involves a send off as a 2nd caution. I recall I did a match that ended in controversy because I allowed a PK with some follow up play forcing the game into tie after the PK was missed. The keeper upset that the match should have been over, we were in added time, decided to punt he ball away over the fence into the bushes where it took some time to find . I was going to allow a kick off restart but unless they shot at goal from centre no chance of another goal. So rather than wait to retrieve the ball I simply ended the match and told the keeper since he was already cautioned earlier he need to go retrieve the ball. He refused and walked away of the pitch and never looked backed . I informed the coaching staff, that I was recording his action as dissent and as a 2nd caution he was being sent off so it would be recorded as a red card for receiving two cautions in the same match He received a 3 match ban despite their appeal he was not actually shown the 2nd yellow card then the red card only informed it would be applied.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Donald
This varies from country to country. In some countries the referee simply shows the yellow card to the player and notes his number, much akin to what happens in say the Champions League. As the referee has a match card with names listed the referee reports who he showed a card to say No 9 with the name on the match listing to the League.
The FA at one time gave the following advice which I believe is still used
** The mandatory use of the cards is merely a simple aid for better communication.
Referees should not use either card in an aggressive or provocative manner likely to inflame an already emotive situation. Neither should the cards be used in an over demonstrative manner, which may humiliate a player and perhaps cause him to overreact.
The sequence of action approved by The Football Association and which should be followed is:-
A. State that the player is being cautioned;
B. Enquire his name;
C. Warn him about his future conduct;
D. Show a yellow card as described above......
Although the Law requires a referee to show a yellow card to a player as part of the cautioning procedure, failure to do so does not mean that a caution has not been administered and the player concerned will be dealt with in accordance with the laid down disciplinary procedures**
That procedure is used at the lower levels of the game whereas at higher levels the card is shown without the verbal part.
I might also add that as already stated failure to show a card does not negate the sanction and there can be times when a card is not the best decision for the referees' safety nor may it be heeded. I have some sympathy for a player who does not know he is cautioned as the card may be shown in his general direction. We all recall infamous Referee Poll incident where there was confusion as to who the cautions were shown to which included the rest of the referee crew. Personally I felt the player knew he was already cautioned and if he is the foul perpetrator then who else is the card for?
I recall a few seasons ago I was challenged by a spectator for not sending off a player for two cautions. He was mistaken as his angle of view in thinking the card was for a player that was later booked. There was no issue on the field as the players knew from the discussions and the player looking at the card who was sanctioned with the caution.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Donald,
There is no standard procedure for issuing a caution to a player, at least not in the Laws of the Game. The laws only specify when a player is to be cautioned, not how the caution is to be issued. As referee McHugh says, the actual procedure may vary from country to country and even within a country it may vary according to level. The FA procedure that he references is still used at most lower levels of the game in England but at higher levels, such as in the Premier League, it is not followed - referees at this level do not normally ask for, or write down the name of the player, for instance, just the number and the team name or colour.

The same procedure is apparently used at international level - in the Graham Poll incident, Poll has described how, when he wrote down the player's number for the first caution, he mistakenly ascribed it to the wrong team, leading to his subsequent error (issuing three yellow cards to the same player).

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