Which tackles warrant a caution?

Recently I wrote how a tackle became a foul, but the question has arisen, when does a foul tackle become a cautionable offence. Quite obviously whenever the referee whistles for a foul, he doesn’t automatically reach in his pocket for a card. What has brought this into focus is Jose Mourinho’s latest encounter with the footballing authorities. Mourinho berated referee Mark Clattenburg for not issuing a second yellow card to Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva for a trip on Chelsea’s Ramires. This of course would have meant Leiva being sent off, leaving Liverpool with ten men for the last twenty five minutes of the game.

The most common reason that a tackle receives a yellow card is what the Law calls a ‘reckless tackle’. This is described in the interpretations of the Laws as ‘acting with a complete disregard to the danger or consequences for his opponent’. This might be a lunge over which the player has little control, a high tackle or one that is overly robust without using excessive force. None of this could be used to describe Leiva’s tackle which was a simple trip.

There are a couple of ways in which a simple trip could still be worthy of a yellow card. One is if the player was guilty of ‘persistent infringement’, in other words commits a series of continuous fouls. There is not set number, it is up to the referee to decide when enough is enough and it is usually after a warning has been given. The second is when a tackle is made to break up or stop a promising attack. Although there may be some sympathy for Mourinho as he has lost players for a second yellow card, there is no way that Leiva’s tackle fell into either of those categories. It was good to see Clattenburg didn’t buckle under the pressure, which must have been great considering the publicity that Mourinho has created this season.

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