In this week’s Play of the Week we are focusing on Yellow Cards, in particular second yellow cards. Are there different criteria and thresholds for a first yellow card as opposed to a second one? In IFAB’s Laws of the Game there is no difference but in practice most referees will be more careful about issuing a second caution as it ultimately results in a red card, with more serious repercussions.

This week’s POTW is from the game I attended between FC Dallas and Portland Timbers. Dallas midfielder Mauro Diaz is tripped by Timber’s Lawrence Olum and receives a yellow card from referee Mark Geiger for stopping a promising attack. This is the correct decision as Diaz has two unmarked team-mates to his left and one on his right to whom he could play the ball. In Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct, it states:

Cautions for Unsporting Behaviour

There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behavior including if a player:

– Commits a foul which interferes with or stops a promising attack except where the referee awards a penalty kick for an offence which was an attempt to play the ball

Later in the game, when the ball is crossed into the penalty area from a free kick, Olum attempts to score with his hand.  Geiger has no hesitation in brandishing his second yellow card then the red card and sends him off. Again, quoting Law:

Cautions for Unsporting Behaviour

There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behavior including if a player:

– Handles the ball in an attempt to play the ball (whether or not the attempt is successful) or in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a goal

There really is no leeway in this play for Geiger : the law is quite specific. A referee can and will use some discretion with perhaps foul challenges/dissent etc. when issuing a second caution.

You can make an argument to say that Geiger’s first yellow card in this game for stopping a promising attack is a solid first yellow card but maybe not necessarily enough to be a second yellow card.

But in this type of “Hand of God” situation he has no choice. If only Geiger had been the referee for the Argentina v England match in the 1986 World Cup Finals!

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