Red and Yellow Cards - We Need a New System

I think it's time to rethink the archaic disciplinary system used in soccer all over the world.  It just seems that the thin line between getting a yellow card or not or a red card or not, is just too fine when you consider the punishment.  Let's take a look at a red card for example.

In yesterday's game, a New Zealand player was given a yellow card for fouling (pulling the shirt) of an Italian player in the six yard box.  Italy were awarded a penalty and scored.  The NZ player with the yellow card was able to continue playing the game and NZ enjoyed an incredible result with a hard fought for 1-1 draw against the mighty Italians.  On any other occasion, the NZ player could have easily gotten a red card.  In fact, I think he would likely get a red card with most other officials but for some reason just got a yellow card in this game.

Contrast that to the day before when Harry Kewell got a red card for handball on the goal line.  I don't think too many people would argue that the ref had to give a red card as it was a goal scoring offense.  However, the shot was hard and from only a few yards out.  Kewell had no time to move, get out of the way or react...basically the ball just hit him in the upper arm/shoulder area.  So, Ghana scored from the resulting penalty, but the larger issue is that the game was totally different from that point forward as Australia had to play with just 10 men for the final 66 minutes of the game.

The point I am trying to make here is not whether the NZ player or Kewell deserved red or yellow cards, but that the fine line between getting a red or yellow is just too fine and the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

Findlay the U.S. forward got a yellow card in the first game against England.  Then in the second game, the ball clearly him in the neck/face.  The ref saw it differently and gave him a yellow card for handball.  Now, because Findlay has received two yellow cards, he cannot play in the next game against Algeria.  This game would have been the biggest of his career and he has to miss it.

The bottom line is that someone can get a yellow card for no reason (the ref gets it wrong) and another player could get away with a bad mistimed tackle that deserves a yellow card.  Or as in the cases above, one player gets a red card and the other a yellow for similar offenses.

Kaka in the Brazil v Ivory Coast game yesterday is another prime example.  In the last five minutes he got a yellow card for some sort of scuffle that was really nothing.  Then a couple of minutes later an Ivory Coast player ran/walked into Kaka.  Kaka put his arm to protect himself from the coming "bump".  As the Ivory Coast player made contact with Kaka, the arm hit him in the chest.  But the Ivory Coast player grabs his face with both hands and goes down on the ground as if he has been hit in the face.  Clearly Kaka did nothing.  But he was given a second yellow card and now has to miss Brazil's next game.  So without committing a foul, Kaka gets two yellow cards.  Yet about 15 minutes earlier, an Ivory Coast player goes over the top of the ball, showing his cleats and hits a Brazilian player in the middle of the shin.  The Brazilian player was hurt, but it could have been much worse.  A tackle like this, can easily break someones leg and deserves a red card.  But the player gets away with just a yellow and can play again in the next match when Kaka can't.  It just doesn't make sense.

This system was fine in the old days when there just a few yellow cards given and hardly any red cards.  But over the years, the game has got quicker, more physical and more competitive.  Refs are given directives to stamp down on certain things and now it just seems that red and yellow cards are far more prevalent than ever and it's ruining the game.  Look, I'm all for punishment, but it should be reasonable punishment that fits the crime.

Basketball has a system where if a player accumulates a 5-6 fouls (college or NBA) they can no longer play in the game, but the team can still play with five players.  If a player commits an intentional foul, the opposition get free throws and possession of the ball.  If a team accumulates 7-10 fouls, the opposition gets free throws.  Something similar to this might work for soccer.

Rugby and ice hockey both have a Sin Bin system that might work for soccer.  Instead of a yellow card, the player gets sent to the sin bin for 10-15 minutes.  If he offends again, he is ejected from the game but the team can still play with 11 players.  If a team accumulates a certain number of fouls, the opposition gets a free kick at the edge of the box or a corner kick and the same goes for every foul or two fouls after that.  If they commit a larger number of fouls, the opposition gets a penalty kick.  This will certainly cut down on the number of fouls.

Look, I don't pretend to have the answers.  But keeping track of the number of fouls and the use of a Sin Bin seem worthy of consideration.  And there is one thing I am sure of, and that is the current system of red and yellow cards is antiquated, and doesn't work in today's game of soccer.

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