Must yellow cards be shown for cautions to stick?

Royals fans who watched Reading’s hard earned draw against Liverpool at the Madejeski Stadium and those who watched it later on Match of the Day, will no doubt remember an unusual incident with referee Mark Clattenburg. In the second half, Reading midfielder Danny Guthrie pulled back a Liverpool player, who was threatening to set up a Liverpool attack on the Reading goal. Clattenburg quite rightly cautioned Guthrie but when he went to produce the yellow card from his pocket, it wasn’t there. Luckily for him, the offence was committed close to the technical area and the fourth official, was able to pass one on to Clattenburg, so he could raise it and show it to Guthrie for his misdemeanour. It had rained heavily throughout the first half and I understand that Clattenburg changed his kit at half time but forgot to take out his red and yellow cards from his sodden shirt. Everyone took it in good humour but the question that I have since been asked is what would have happened if he hadn’t been able to get hold of a card, would the caution still be legal? Without a red card would a referee be able to send off a player? This is not an unknown situation with other referees. I heard recently of a young referee who was refereeing at a ground not unlike Prospect Park, where the furthest pitches are almost half a mile from the changing rooms. As he reached the pitch he realised that he had forgotten not only his red and yellow cards but also a coin which the law says he needs to toss-up to decide which way the teams will kick. To make matters worse for himself, he was being assessed at this game for promotion and even if he ran back to the changing room to collect them, the game would still start late which would mean a reduction in the assessor’s markings. Fortunately, this has never happened to me but I have to admit to forgetting to raise the yellow card after cautioning a player and I know I am not alone. The story behind the cards is I think worth remembering. At the 1966 World Cup match at Wembley between England and Argentina, the German referee decided to send off Antonia Rattin of the Argentine for what he later described as violence of the tongue. It was actually his manner towards the referee rather than what he said, as neither could understand what the other was saying. Rattin made out that he didn’t realise that he was being sent off and refused to leave the field. Former referee Ken Aston was the FIFA representative at the game, so he had to intervene and the police were called to escort Rattin from the pitch. Aston thought that there had to be a better way to communicate in such situations. On his way home in the car he stopped at the traffic lights and the red and orange lights gave him the idea for red and yellow cards. At first they were only used in international matches but gradually worked their way through the levels and down to the local parks and now of course, they are an established part of the game. If Mark Clattenburg had not been able to obtain a yellow card, Guthrie’s caution would still have stood. Although the Laws of the Game say that ‘a player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the seven cautionable offences, it also says ‘The yellow card is used to communicate that a player, substitute or substituted player has been cautioned.’ In other words it is as Ken Aston envisaged it, a communication tool rather than a part of the disciplinary action.

Leave a Reply