What Football Competitions Do Yellow Cards Carry Over In?

yellow card close up referee faded in backgroundNobody can deny that football has remained a popular sport and competition throughout the years. And it has grown considerably in many ways, financially and in its presence. And this is why numerous rules have been introduced so as to govern professional football properly. This does not mean that all rules involved in the sport are the same the world over or from league to league. Certainly, this is the case when it comes to yellow cards being given during matches. What we see on television or when attending a game is the referee giving a player a yellow card for a particular level of foul play. Yet how far does this yellow card go?

It serves as a warning to the player in that moment in time, but does it continue to affect the footballer in the future? While it may be the case that some can yellow cards roll over to subsequent games, other leagues may have them held against a player for a longer time frame. In order to be informative on this question, we have put together some details surrounding the football competitions where yellow cards carry over to other matches. And we’ll look at the leagues and divisions where these have a big effect.

What Does a Yellow Card Mean?

referee giving player a yellow card bookingWhen it comes to football, referees shouldn’t simply hand out yellow cards lightly. They need to be considered, and if the activity that has led to an issue be of a big enough problem, then a yellow card may be given. It can stand out as a significant moment in any football match taking place, potentially affecting how the player receiving it continues to play throughout the remainder of the game. It is utilised by the referee to caution the player for any type of unsporting behaviour they may have been a part of. This includes a consistent infringement of the rules surrounding football, dissent towards other players or the referee, delaying the restart of the game after a short period of stoppage etc.

If a referee ends up showing one player two yellow cards during a single game, then it becomes a red card, and that player is sent off as a result. When the yellow card is shown, it means that the player has received a warning about their behaviour from the referee. As a result, both the player and the fans spectating know that that player is one wrong move away from being sent off the pitch. Here are some of the offences that may see a player be shown a yellow card:

  • Delaying the restart of the game
  • Dissent by words or actions
  • Entering, re-entering or deliberately leaving the field of play without the permission of the referee
  • Not respecting the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in
  • Persistent offences, such as continuously infringing the laws of the game, especially after having been warned about it already
  • Unsporting behaviour on the pitch – this is ultimately down to the referee’s judgement as to what they determine to be ‘unsporting’.

While those rules seem quite self-explanatory and easy to follow, this doesn’t stop many players from breaking them and being shown a yellow card. The question is what the yellow card means after the game is over. How does this affect the player going forward?

How Yellow Card Carry Over Works

five yellow cards equalling red under carry over rules

You really need to look at each individual league to determine how yellow cards work and how long they stay in effect. For example, in 2019, new rules were brought into effect for the season. Prior to this, yellow cards that were picked up in the Premier League, football leagues, FA Cup or the Carabao Cup would be totalled up together. This meant that if five yellow cards were shown to a single player across all of those competitions, then that specific player would miss out on a single match – the next one that they should have been competing in.

Changes in 2019 meant that yellow cards would only count in the competition that they are received in. Red cards, on the other hand, would count across all different competitions. Jose Holebas was shown a straight red in his game for Watford against West Ham in the final match of the previous season and was therefore suspended for the final of the FA Cup as a result. (That red card ended up being rescinded prior to the match in question though, and Holebas was cleared to play in the final).

The Professional Football Scouts Association (PFSA) has additional information on the standings of yellow cards at the moment. The following principals are in place to determine how the cards operate:

  • If five yellow cards are accumulated before match week 19, then a one-match ban on the player in question is imposed.
  • If 10 yellow cards are accumulated by week 32, then a two-match ban on the player in question is imposed.
  • If 15 yellow cards are accumulated by week 38, then a three-match ban on the player in question is imposed.
  • If 20 yellow cards are accumulated in a season, then this can result in the Regulatory Commission punishing the player in question as they see fit.

The notes mentioned here refer more specifically to league matches, rather than football tournaments. And what’s more intriguing about yellow cards is that from the start of the 2019/20 season, referees were given the power to show both managing and coaching personnel these cards, as well as red ones, for any indiscretions.

If we take a look back at the number of yellow cards that have been imposed on players throughout past seasons of the Premier League, it’s clear to see that a vast number of infringements on the rules have occurred. And that’s just for the Premier League. Other divisions in the UK and around the world are not counted here.

SeasonNumber of Yellow Cards Issued
2015-161186
2016-171315
2017-181177
2018-191222
2019-201281

One piece of information that is quite interesting to note is the player with the most yellow cards to date. This rests in the direction of Spanish player Sergio Ramos, who currently plays for French side Paris Saint-Germain. By the 2020-21 season, he had racked up a total of 259 yellow cards to his name. Ramos also tops the table when it comes to red cards, strangely enough, having been issued 23 in his career by the 2020-21 season.

Yellow Cards in Other Leagues & International Tournaments

player shown a yellow card

The general basis behind a yellow card in football doesn’t differ from location to location or league to league. If a player is shown a yellow card, then they are being warned by the referee about their conduct on the pitch. This is the same whether you’re engaging in football in the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Brazil, or anywhere. The difference between these cards is how long the effects of them last. Is it just for the one game and then it’s discarded, and the player returns to a 0 tally, or does it proceed on throughout the season or league?

Well, the likelihood is that different leagues and countries’ football governing bodies will dictate different rules regarding the yellow cards.

Let’s take a look at the World Cup though, which is an international competition, bringing in teams from countries all over the globe. A player receiving a yellow card in the group stages will see that card carried over into the knockouts round. A reset then takes place prior to the semi-finals occurring, which is a rule designed to stop players being suspended from the final due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Any red cards being shown in a semi-final game of the World Cup would automatically see a player banned from participating in the final. Brazilian player Thiago Silva received an accumulation suspension from the World Cup final against Germany in 2014. Brazil appealed the suspension, but it didn’t work in their favour, and this could have been why the German team secured a 7-1 victory that year.

Comparing the Premier League rules surrounding yellow cards with the FA Cup rules in the table below, you’ll see how these differ significantly enough.

Tournament/LeagueYellow Card Rules
Premier League/EFL5 yellow cards before match week 19 = one-match ban
10 yellow cards by match week 32 = two-match ban
15 yellow cards by match week 38 = three-match ban
FA Cup/Carabao CupTwo yellow cards = one-match ban
Cards are wiped at the semi-final stage
No player can miss the final via yellow cards, only red

Yellow cards last for the duration of the game that they are issued in, and the caution is then removed from the player. They start the next round with no yellow card to their name for that next match. Competitions running over a whole season will see the number of cards accrued add up to a potential match suspension. So, a player may be on the pitch for 40 different games in a season, for example, and across those 40 games, they may amass a total number of yellow cards equating to 10. If so, then judging by the rules of the Premier League as an example, if they were amassed prior to week 32, then the player would be suspended for the next two matches they are supposed to partake in.

The rules for various other worldwide leagues are as follows:

LeagueYellow Card Rules
La Liga (Spain)Two yellow cards received in two consecutive matches leads to a single game suspension.
Five yellow cards received in total leads to a single game suspension.
Bundesliga (Germany)A player is suspended for one game after every fifth yellow card acquired.
Serie A, Serie B, Lega Pro, Serie D (Italy)A player is suspended from one game after being handed five yellow cards
MLS (USA)A player is suspended from next Regular Season match and receives a $250 fine after accruing five yellow cards.
A player is suspended from his next Regular Season match and receives a further $500 fine for accruing an additional three yellow cards (8 in total).
A player is suspended from his next Regular Season match and receives a further $750 fine for accruing an additional three more yellow cards (11 in total).
A player is suspended from his next Regular Season match and receives a further $1,000 fine for accruing an additional two yellow cards (13 in total).
For each two yellow cards issued after the fourth suspension, the player is suspended from their next Regular Season match and the fine will be doubled.
Eredivisie (Netherlands)A player is suspended for one league match after five yellow cards, seven yellow cards, nine yellow cards, eleven yellow cards and each yellow card thereafter.
Danish SuperligaAn accumulated number of yellow cards for player cannot force suspension in the competition.
Two yellow cards in the same match only suspend the player in the relevant match, but not the following match in the competition.
Austrian BundesligaA player accumulating five yellow cards is suspended for the next match, and then after every four additional yellow cards as well.
Swiss Super LeagueA game ban is issued to a player after every four yellow cards received.
Australian A-LeagueA player who accumulates three yellow cards during the course of the Finals Series, must serve a mandatory match suspension of one A-League match.