Red Card in Soccer: What Is It? What Does It Mean? Sending off Rules

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

Its rulebook differentiates association football (soccer) from other kinds of football. Rules forbidding specific behaviors or types of contact explain why Football and Rugby broke apart in the 1800s. One of them is behind the red card. Let’s understand what it is.

In soccer, a red card symbolizes a punishment shown to a team member (player, coach, or staff) who breaks the rules in a game. Whoever sees it has to leave the field or bench immediately. If it’s a player, no one can substitute them. For serious offenses, suspensions can last for more than one game.

While the above definition already says a lot, there is still a lot to uncover regarding red cards in soccer. In this article, I’ll further explain what a red card is, its meaning, and how it works. Let’s go!

What Does a Red Card Mean in Soccer?

A red card in soccer means that an element of one of the teams broke one of the game rules and needs to abandon the game field or the bench.

That team element can be a player, one of the coaches, or someone on the coaching, medical or support staff.

The red card shown by the referee symbolizes a form of punishment for serious misconduct or misbehavior.

Whoever sees a red card is sent off and cannot come back for the rest of the game; it’s a permanent ban.

The consequences of receiving a red card can be graver than just being banned from the current match.

Suspension can go on for several more matches, depending on the severity of the misconduct or misbehavior.

How Can a Soccer Player Get a Red Card?

A soccer player can get a red card for serious misconduct or misbehavior.

Misconduct and misbehavior mean behaving in a way that severely breaks the rules or recklessly/purposefully endangering another player.

Here are some offenses that can get a soccer player to receive a red card.

Seeing a Second Yellow Card

If a soccer player commits a yellow-card-worthy foul after having already seen a yellow card, the referee may show them the yellow card for the second time.

Seeing two yellow cards in a match equals being ejected from the game.

In other words, if a player sees the yellow card for the second time, such a player will also get a red card and needs to leave the playing ground.

Stopping an Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity with a Foul

If a soccer player has an obvious goal-scoring and an opposing player stops them illegally by committing a foul, the opposing player gets a red card.

What is a clear goal-scoring opportunity?

A sure goal-scoring opportunity is when there are almost no obstacles to prevent a player from scoring. Like when:

  1. A player is running toward the goal with no one between them and the goal.
  2. They only have the goalkeeper between them and the goal.

Field Player Stopping a Shot on Goal with a Handball

It is also possible to receive a red card in a soccer match if a player stops a shot on goal with their hand when they are not the goalkeeper.

Serious Foul Play

Abusive or Offensive Language/Gestures

Spitting at Someone

Violent Conduct/Deliberate Aggression

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.