A penalty card is used in many sports as a means of warning, reprimanding or penalising a player, coach or team official. Penalty cards are most commonly used by referees or umpires to indicate that a player has committed an offense. The referee will hold the card above his or her head while looking or pointing towards the player that has committed the offense. The colour and/or shape of the card used by the official indicates the type or seriousness of the offence and the level of punishment that is to be applied.
By analogy the term is sometimes used in other areas than sport. For example, the UK Radio Authority speaks of issuing a yellow card to those who break its rules.
History and origin 
The idea of using language-neutral coloured cards to communicate a referee's intentions originated with British football referee Ken Aston. Aston had been appointed to the FIFA Referees' Committee and was responsible for all referees at the 1966 FIFA World Cup. In the quarter finals, England met Argentina at Wembley Stadium. After the match, newspaper reports stated that referee Rudolf Kreitlein had cautioned both Bobby and Jack Charlton, as well as sending off Argentinian Antonio Rattin. The referee had not made his decision clear during the game, and England manager Alf Ramsey approached FIFA for post-match clarification. This incident started Aston thinking about ways to make a referee's decisions clearer to both players and spectators. Aston realised that a colour-coding scheme based on the same principle as used on traffic lights (yellow - caution, red - stop) would traverse language barriers and clarify whether a player had been cautioned or expelled. As a result, yellow cards to indicate a caution and red cards to indicate an expulsion were used for the first time in the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. The use of penalty cards has since been adopted and expanded by several sporting codes, with each sport adapting the idea to its specific set of rules or laws.
Commonly used penalty cards 
Yellow card 
A yellow card is used in many different sporting codes. Its meaning differs among sports, however it most commonly indicates a caution given to a player regarding his or her conduct, or indicates a temporary suspension. Examples include:
- Association football: A yellow card is shown by the referee to indicate that a player has been officially cautioned. The player's details are then recorded by the referee in a small notebook; hence a caution is also known as a "booking". A player who has been cautioned may continue playing in the game; however, a player who receives a second caution in a match is sent off (shown the yellow card again, and then a red card (see below)), meaning that he must leave the field immediately and take no further part in the game. The player may not be replaced by a substitute. Law 12 of the Laws of the Game (which are set by the International Football Association Board and used by FIFA) lists the types of offences and misconduct that may result in a caution. It also states that "only a player, substitute or substituted player" can be cautioned. A player is cautioned and shown a yellow card if he/she commits any of the following offences:
- Dissent by word or action
- Persistent infringement on the Laws of the Game
- Delaying the restart of play (includes deliberate time-wasting tactics)
- Failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, throw-in or free kick
- Entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee's permission
- Deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee's permission
In addition, a player is cautioned and shown a yellow card for "unsporting behaviour" which, according to US Soccer, includes the following:
- Commits a direct free kick foul in a reckless manner (for example, charging, pushing, tripping)
- Commits a direct free kick foul in a reckless manner while tackling for the ball from any direction
- Commits a tactical foul designed to interfere with or impede an opposing team’s attacking play (e.g., pushing an opponent, blatantly holding an opponent or an opponent's uniform, handling the ball deliberately)
- Handles the ball deliberately to score a goal
- Commits an act which, in the opinion of the referee, shows a lack of respect for the game (e.g., aggressive attitude, inflammatory behavior, or taunting)
- Fakes an injury or exaggerates the seriousness of an injury
- Fakes a foul (dives) or exaggerates the severity of a foul
- Interferes with or prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from the hands into play
- Verbally distracts an opponent during play or at a restart
- Unfairly distracts or impedes an opponent performing a throw-in
- Changes jerseys with the goalkeeper during play or without the referee's permission (both #players must be cautioned)
- Engages in trickery to circumvent the goalkeeper's limitation on handling the ball played from a teammate's foot (the defender who initiates the "trickery" is cautioned, the decision does not require that the goalkeeper actually handles the ball, and the misconduct can occur during dynamic play or at a restart)
- Makes unauthorized marks on the field
- Removes the jersey or covers the face with a mask or similar device after scoring a goal
- Uses an artificial aid to unfairly assist play (for example, leaning on the shoulders of a teammate, using an article of clothing to avoid direct contact with the ball, moving or removing a corner flag on a corner kick, hanging on a crossbar)
- Uses tobacco or tobacco products in any form in the area of the field
- Beginning from the 2010 FIFA World Cup, feigning a kick during a penalty kick
- Participating in an orchestrated pattern of fouls directs at an opponent.
A substitute or substituted player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he/she commits any of the following three offences:
- Unsporting behaviour (as above)
- Showing dissent by word or action
- Delaying the restart of play
In most tournaments, the accumulation of a certain number of yellow cards over several matches results in disqualification of the offending player for a certain number of subsequent matches, the exact number of cards and matches varying by jurisdiction. In the UEFA Champions League, for instance, accumulating two yellow cards in a stage of the tournament will lead to a 1 game suspension; players have often intentionally collected the second yellow card which will "strategically" reset their tally of yellow cards to zero for the next stage but this is considered unsporting conduct.
- Australian rules football: A yellow card is issued against a player for committing any reportable offence (such as striking an opponent, swearing at an official, amongst others), except those listed as 'serious' reportable offences. Any player issued a yellow card is unable to participate in the game for the length of a quarter of play, excluding breaks, although the player can be replaced. However, a yellow card may be issued against a player at the discretion of an umpire, despite the player not committing a reportable offence. Yellow cards and red cards are, however, not issued in the Australian Football League, the highest level of play in Australian rules football.
- Bandy: A yellow card indicates a warning given to an entire team for technical fouls such as errors in the execution of goal-throws or free strokes, or the obstruction of a player without ball. Subsequent technical fouls by the same team result in a five-minute penalty indicated by a white card.
- Canoe polo: A yellow card indicates a player has received a two-minute temporary suspension. A yellow card can be awarded for a deliberate or dangerous foul that prevents the scoring of a near certain goal, dangerous illegal play that is deliberate or repeated, foul or abusive language, continuously disputing a referee's decisions or receiving a third green card for any reason.
- Equestrian sports: Yellow cards may be issued during FEI sanctioned events for abuse of a horse or incorrect behavior towards an official. Abuse of the horse may include riding an obviously lame horse, riding an exhausted horse, excessive use of whip and/or spurs, and dangerous riding. Riders may choose not to accept issued cards, but doing so may lead to a disciplinary hearing. A rider receiving a yellow card can be disqualified from the event and subsequently fined or suspended.
- Fencing: A yellow card indicates a warning to a fencer and is valid for the remainder of the bout. In some cases, an annulment of any hit scored by the fencer at fault may also occur. Yellow cards are awarded for Group 1 offences such as making bodily contact with the opposing fencer (in foil or sabre), leaving the piste without permission, or refusing to obey the referee. A yellow card can also be awarded when, at the first call by the referee, a fencer does not present himself on the piste ready to fence. Any person not on the piste who disturbs the good order of the competition may also receive a yellow card on the first infringement.
- Field hockey: A yellow card indicates a temporary suspension. The length of the suspension is determined by the umpire, but in accordance with International Hockey Federation rules is a minimum of 5 minutes' playing time. It is possible for a player to receive two yellow cards for different offences during the same match, however the period of suspension must be significantly longer with each yellow card. When an offence for which a yellow card has been awarded is repeated, the yellow card must not be used again and a more severe penalty must be awarded. There must also be a clear difference between the duration of a yellow card suspension for a minor offence and the duration for a major offence. The yellow card can be shown to a specific player or to the captain for misconduct by the entire team. In this case, the captain is temporarily suspended.
- Handball: A yellow card indicates a warning and can be given to a player or team official for unsportsmanlike conduct, or to a player whose actions are mainly or exclusively directed at the opponent and not at the ball. IHF rules also allow referees to use discretion to award a yellow card outside of these situations.
- Mixed Martial Arts promotions PRIDE(defunct), DEEP, and ZST: A warning, the third leads to disqualification.
- Racewalking: A yellow card indicates a competitor's foot fails to be on the ground when the rear leg is being raised, or the front leg is not straightened when it makes contact with the ground.
- Rugby league: Yellow cards are not usually used in rugby league in the southern hemisphere with referees indicating a 10-minute suspension by raising both arms straight out with fingers spread (to indicate 10 minutes). This is otherwise known as a "sin bin". However in the northern hemisphere it is common for a referee to use a yellow card in signaling a "sin bin" to indicate 10 minutes instead of using the arm and hand signal used in the southern hemisphere.
- Rugby union: According to the laws of the game published by the International Rugby Board (IRB), during international matches, any player who commits an offence under Law 10 - Foul Play may be shown a yellow card and suspended from the game for 10 minutes. Offences include obstruction, unfair play, repeated infringements, dangerous play and misconduct which is prejudicial to the game. Receiving a yellow card is known colloquially as being sent to the "sin bin". A player receiving a second yellow card in a game will also be shown a red card (see below) meaning that he or she has been sent-off and will be unable to take part in the remainder of the match.
- Volleyball: A yellow card can be used in different ways to indicate several penalties. A player or team staff member can be shown a yellow card for the first instance of rude conduct and the referee may also penalise a team for delaying the game by pointing to the wrist using a yellow card. Both offences result in a loss of rally. A yellow card can also be used together with a red card to indicate a participant has been disqualified and can take no further part in the match. In the NCAA, red and yellow cards in the same hand indicate that the player must sit out the rest of that game, while red and yellow cards held apart indicate that the participant is disqualified and must leave the playing and spectator areas.
- Water polo: Given to entire bench as warning for disrespectful conduct from the coach, individual players, or the entire bench. Following the issuance of a yellow card, further incidents will result in a red card and the expulsion of individual players and coaches.
Red card 
A red card is used in several different sporting codes. Its meaning differs among sports, but it most commonly indicates a serious offence and often results in a player being permanently suspended from the game (commonly known as an ejection, dismissal, expulsion, removal, or sending-off, often with personal embarrassment). Examples include:
- Association football: A red card is shown by a referee to signify that a player has been sent off. A player who has been sent off is required to leave the field of play immediately and must take no further part in the game. The player who has been sent off cannot be replaced during the game; his or her team must continue the game with one less player. Only players, substitutes and substituted players may receive a red card. If a goalkeeper receives a red card, one of his teammates must be substituted out for another goalkeeper. If the team has already used up all its allotted substitutions, an outfield player has to take over in goal. Law 12 of the Laws of the Game lists the categories of misconduct for which a player may be sent off. These are:
- Serious foul play (a violent foul)
- Violent conduct (any other act of violence) e.g. assaulting the referee (player who assaults the referee is booted and fined and receives a game suspension for up to 94 days)
- Spitting at anyone or another player
- A deliberate handling offense to deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by any player other than a goalkeeper in his own penalty area
- Committing an offense that denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (informally known as a professional foul)
- Using offensive, insulting or abusive language or gestures
- Receiving a second caution (yellow card) in the same game
In most tournaments, a single direct red card (i.e. not one received as a result of two successive yellow ones) results in disqualification of the offending player for one or more of subsequent matches, the exact number of matches varying by the offence committed and by jurisdiction. Since the red card is the main punitive instrument against unsportsmanlike behavior, recurrent offenders and team captains are often punished more harshly than others.
- Australian rules football: A red card is issued against a player who has accumulated two yellow cards over the course of a match, or has committed a 'serious reportable offence' (such as striking an umpire or kicking an opponent). A player issued with a red card may not participate for the remainder of the match, however unlike most sports, the player can be replaced, although not until a length of time equivalent to one quarter (excluding breaks) has elapsed. Yellow cards and red cards are, however, not issued in the Australian Football League, the highest level of play in Australian rules football.
- Bandy: A red card indicates a player has been excluded for the remainder of the match and cannot be substituted. Red card offences include directly attacking an opponent or using abusive language. A coach or substitute may also be penalised with a red card. In this situation, a player currently on the rink also serves a ten-minute penalty, resulting in the number of players being reduced by one.
- Canoe polo: A red card indicates a player has been sent off for the remainder of the match and cannot be substituted. A red card can be awarded if a personal attack on a player occurs, repeated foul or abusive language, or when the award of a yellow card is disputed or has not had the desired effect of causing the player to control his play or attitude. A red card is also awarded when a player has received a second yellow card for any reason.
- Fencing: A red card is used to indicate that a fencer has committed an offence that warrants a penalty hit to be awarded to the opponent. Second and subsequent Group 1 offences, all Group 2 offences and first Group 3 offences are penalised with a red card. A red card may also be awarded when, at the second call by the referee, a fencer does not present himself on the piste ready to fence.
- Field hockey: A red card results in a player being permanently suspended from the game. The player cannot take any further part in the game and cannot be substituted. Unlike other penalty cards in field hockey, the red card is never given to the captain for team misconduct. In addition to their colour, red cards in field hockey are often circular in shape.
- Handball: A red card indicates a disqualification of a player who has committed an offence such as unsportsmanlike conduct, serious foul play, or receiving a third two-minute suspension. A red card prevents a player from playing in the remainder of the match and as a result reduces the number of players that are available to a team. A red card also carries a two-minute suspension for the team, meaning that a team cannot replace the disqualified player until the two-minute team suspension has expired.
- Racewalking: A red card indicates that a competitor's foot failed to be on the ground when the rear leg is being raised, or the front leg is not straightened when it makes contact with the ground. A judge would issue a yellow card for the first infraction committed by a competitor, and if the same judge detects a second infraction from the same infraction a red card is issued. Three red cards, from three different judges, will result in a competitor's disqualification.
- Rugby league: Red cards are not usually used in rugby league in the southern hemisphere with referees indicating a player has been sent from the field for the rest of the match with one extended arm above the head with the index finger pointed in the direction of a sideline. However in the northern hemisphere it is common for a referee to use a red card in signaling a player has been sent from the field for the rest of the match.
- Rugby union: A red card is used to indicate that a player has been sent off and can take no further part in the game. They cannot be replaced, leaving their team with one less player for the remainder of the game. During international matches, any player who commits an offence under Law 10 - Foul Play may be shown a red card. Red cards are normally issued for serious offences. Any player receiving a second yellow card in a game will automatically be shown a red card.
- Volleyball: A red card can be issued by the referee for the second instance of rude conduct or the first instance of offensive conduct. The penalty differs between the six-man (indoor) and two-man (beach) codes.
- *Six Man: A player assessed a red card must leave the playing area and remain in the penalty area for the remainder of the set. If an expelled player cannot be legally substituted, the opponent wins the set. A red card shown together with a yellow card indicates a participant has been disqualified and ejected from the match. In the NCAA, red and yellow cards in the same hand indicate that the player must sit out the rest of that game, while red and yellow cards held apart indicate that the participant is disqualified and must leave the playing and spectator areas.
- Two Man (beach): The penalty is loss of serve (if serving) and the opposing team will score a point.
- Water polo: A red card is issued to a coach or players on the bench for a second incident of misconduct after receiving a yellow card.
Other types of penalty cards 
Green card 
A green card is used in some sports to indicate an official warning to a player who has committed a minor offence that does not warrant a more serious sanction.
- Canoe polo: A green card indicates an official warning that can be applied to an individual player or a whole team. A green card can be awarded for deliberate unsporting behavior or unnecessary verbal communication to the referee.
- Field hockey: A green card indicates an official warning when a minor offence has occurred. A second green card for the same player will result in a yellow card (5 minute suspension). In this case, the umpire will show a green card, followed by a yellow card. When an offence for which a green card has been awarded is repeated, a yellow card should be awarded. A green card can be given to a specific player or to the captain as a warning to the entire team. Cards shown to the captain as a warning to the team are treated separate from cards shown to the captain as a player. In addition to their colour, green cards in field hockey are often triangular in shape. In international competition, the green card carries a two-minute suspension during which time that player's team plays with one less player. This is not officially a Rule of hockey, but has been adopted in many domestic competitions at elite club and representative level.
- Athletics: A green card indicates that the recall did not warrant a warning, most commonly happens when the machines used to catch false-starters make a mistake
White card 
A white card is used in bandy to indicate a five-minute timed penalty given to a player. The offending player must leave the playing area and wait on a penalty bench near the centre line until the penalty has expired. During the 5 minute period the player may not be replaced, although he or she may be replaced with a different player when the penalty has expired. Offences that can warrant a white card include trying to hinder the opponents from executing a free-stroke, illegal substitution or repeated illegal but non-violent attacks on an opponent.
In the 2012 Rugby Union Super 15 season, a White Card was introduced for incidents of suspected foul play where the referee is unsure of the identity of the perpetrator, or where the referee is unsure if a red card is warranted. The incident is later referred to the citing commissioner, and may result in a suspension for the offending player. It is similar to a citation sign (arms crossed above the head) in rugby league.
Blue card 
A blue card is used in bandy to indicate a ten-minute timed penalty given to a player. The offending player must leave the playing area and wait on a penalty bench near the centre line until the penalty has expired. During the 10 minute period the player may not be replaced, although he or she may be replaced with a different player when the penalty has expired. A blue card is typically shown for offences that are more serious than those warranting a white card including attacking an opponent in a violent or dangerous way, causing advantage by intentionally stopping the ball with a high stick or protesting a referee's decision.
A blue card is also frequently used in indoor soccer in the United States, signifying that the offender must leave the field and stay in a penalty box (usually 2–5 minutes), while his team plays down a man (identical to ice hockey and roller hockey). If a goal is scored by the team opposite of the offender, then the offender may return to the field immediately. It is also used in the Clericus Cup association football league for a 5 minute bench penalty for unsportsmanlike play. And it is also used in the beach soccer for a 2 minute bench penalty for unsportsmanlike play.
A Blue Card is also used in Mini Soccer or Football Tournaments (less than 11 a-side) to indicate to a player they have been 'sin binned' for a certain amount of time (Usually 2-5 minutes depending on the offence). A player that is shown 2 Blue Cards in a game must be shown a Red Card and dismissed from the field of play.
Black card 
A black card is used in fencing. It is issued by the director, or the referee for severe rule infractions. A second instance of a Group 3 offence, and all Group 4 offences including deliberate brutality, refusal to fence, refusal to salute, and refusal to shake hands can be punished with a black card. When the black card is issued, the offending fencer is excluded from the remainder of the competition and may be suspended from further tournaments. In the official record of the tournament, his or her name is replaced with the words "FENCER EXCLUDED".
A black card is also used in the sport of badminton to indicate disqualification. It was shown to two teams playing a match at the women's doubles tournament of the 2012 Summer Olympics for deliberately trying to lose their group match in order to manipulate the draw in the single-elimination phase of the tournament. The card was later rescinded by the tournament referee, but the teams were subsequently disqualified by the Badminton World Federation.
In the Gaelic Games of Gaelic football and hurling, a black card - also known as a tick or black book - is recorded against a player for a minor infringement not warranting a yellow card, though multiple bookings will result in the issuance of a yellow card. The act of the referee physically holding up his black notebook in the same manner as a card has been discontinued by the GAA.
See also 
- UK Radio broadcasting authority "The Authority has issued two Yellow Cards..." (unrelated to sport)
- "Ken Aston - the inventor of yellow and red cards". fifa.com. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "Laws of the Game". fifa.com. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
- "AFL Laws of the Game". AFL Commission. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- "Bandy - Rules of Play". internationalbandy.com. Retrieved June 10, 2008.
- "International Canoe Polo - Rules of Play". canoepolonz.org.nz. Retrieved June 12, 2008.
- "FEI General Regulations". fei.org. Retrieved September 17, 2008.[dead link]
- "FIE Competition Rules". britishfencing.com. Retrieved Sept. 8, 2010.
- "Rules of Hockey 2007/8". fihockey.org. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
- "International Handball Federation - Rules of the Game 2005". ihf.info. Retrieved June 8, 2008.
- What is Olympic Race Walking?
- "International Rugby Board - Laws of the Game". irb.com. Retrieved June 8, 2008.
- "FIVB - Official Volleyball Rules 2005". fivb.org. Retrieved June 16, 2008.[dead link]
- "IAAF Starting Guidelines".
- White card set for Super Rugby bow
- "Fencing For Parents". U.S. Fencing - The Official Website of the U.S. Fencing Association. Archived from the original on 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2008-08-14.
- "8 badminton players tossed from Olympic doubles after being accused of throwing matches". New York Post. Associated Press. 1 August 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2012.
- Keys, Colm (May 8, 2009). "GAA throw caution to wind and abandon black books". Irish Independent.