Grassroots Coaching

Time to introduce a Green card in football?

The Premier League has sold television rights to its games for a record £5.136bn, 71% above the previous deal. Sky paid £4.2bn for five of the seven TV packages while rival BT paid £960m for the other two in the record TV rights auction. The deal will run for three years from 2016.

Premier league attendances for the 2014 / 15 season are averaging over 90% with the highest being Manchester United at 99.5% and the lowest being Aston Villa at 77%.

In addition,  Premier League games are broadcast to over 600m homes in 202 countries worldwide, and they are particularly popular in Asia and the Middle East. Research by Sportingintelligence has established that the Premier League will earn £2.23 billion from the sales of all their overseas rights to live games for the three-year period, 2013 to 2016, with Asia contributing the biggest single chunk.

Premier League football in particular is a hugely successful Worldwide entertainment business. The domestic and worldwide football public love the competitive nature and exciting football that the Premier league delivers regularly.

So there is a strong argument that a winning formula shouldn’t be changed. But, there is a also a powerful alternative argument that too many matches are being spoilt as a competitive spectacle by too many sending offs for two relatively innocuous yellow cards for mistimed challenges, red cards being given, again for mistimed and dubious decisions. Suddenly an 11 v 11 competitive game is reduced to 11 v 10 and the dynamics of the game are changed dramatically. Maybe it’s just me, but when a player gets sent off for what sometimes are two relatively innocuous challenges that result in two yellow cards, or a very dubious red card, then the whole emphasis and dynamics of the game are changed and the game can be really spoilt as a spectacle for tens of thousands of supporters watching the game live and for many millions watching the game on T.V around the world.


What happens when a player gets sent off? The team with 10 men are invariably on the back foot and defending for the rest of the game. If they are losing at the time of the sending off, then unless it is one of the big four, the game is almost certainly over. How fair is that on the spectators, TV companies who are paying millions and TV spectators who are paying subscriptions to watch the game?

How about the authorities consider introducing a different card system. What about, the first foul is a yellow card, the second foul, instead of being a second yellow and a sending off, becomes a green card instead. Or, if the foul or offence is borderline a red card, such as handball in the box, or a late mistimed last minute tackle that prevents a goal, give the player a green card. The offending player can still receive a suspension – say one match only.

This green card would mean that the offending player has to leave the pitch for a set period of time, say 15 – 20 minutes, like the sin bin in rugby.

This could then create a number of interesting scenarios:
1. A power play for the attacking team. They know they have 15 – 20 minutes when the opposition have 10 men. Can they adjust their tactics, be positive and take advantage of their numerical advantage?
2. The team with the 10 men know they only have to survive for 15 – 20 minutes, can they adjust tactically and survive the power play.
3. The manager of the team who has the player green carded has an interesting decision at the end of the 15 – 20 minutes. Depending on what happens in the 15 – 20 minutes, do they put the player who has been green carded back on and risk him fouling again and being sent off. Or do they substitute him and maybe change the team tactically?


Interestingly, on Saturday March 21 2015, Man City played West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League. City are chasing the Premier league title and Albion are not yet safe from relegation. In the last two games City have lost to relegation threatened Burnley and to Barcelona in the Champions League. They were trailing Chelsea by 5 points in the title race. Albion had a great recent run of results, dragging themselves out of relegation pack and had an impressive defensive record. The game was live on BT sport and was covered by BBC’s 5 live and the BBC world wide service as well as being shown all around the World on TV.

In the second minute of the game Albion’s right back Craig Dawson fouled Man City’s Wilfred Bony on the edge of the area, with Bony running in on goal. Referee, Neil Swarbrick meant to send off Dawson for the foul, but in a case of mistaken identity sent off Albion’s center half  Gareth McAuley. Putting aside the case of the wrong player being sent off, a statement from Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, the organisation responsible for refereeing appointments said: “In the second minute of Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion, referee Neil Swarbrick made a decision to send off Gareth McAuley for a ‘denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity’ offence”.

Everyone has a great deal of sympathy for referees, they are given a mandate, a set of rules they have to follow. In this case if referee Swarbrick saw the offence as a ‘denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity’ then under these rules he had to send off Dawson. Indeed, West Bromwich Albion Manager Tony Pulis said after the game the following, “This product is one of the greatest products in this country and  sells all over the world, but it is no good moaning about referees. What we have to do is find a way to help referees out”.

There is real question mark as to whether the foul was a denial of a obvious goal scoring opportunity, but once the referee sent the player off, the game was effectively over as a game as a realistic competitive game . West Bromwich Albion pulled everyone back behind the ball in an exercise of damage limitation and Man City attacked at will. To put this into a perspective, Man City enjoyed 78% possession and had 43 shots, 16 on target and 12 blocked- or one shot every two minutes. West Bromwich Albion had 22% possession and 3 shots, with none on target.

If the referee had in this circumstance been allowed to issue, rather than a red card, a green card that carried a 15 – 20 minute sin bin offence, then the following might have evolved for a vast worldwide TV and radio audience.

  • Man City had a 15 – 20 minute power play of 11 v 10. What would City’s tactics have been during the power play? If they had scored in this power play, Albion would have been restored to 11 men after 15 – 20 minutes and would have changed tactics to try and get back in the game – all major talking points for the fans and the media.
  • What would have been Albion’s tactics during this power play? We could probably guess, but knowing they had to survive 15 – 20 minutes, would it have given the Albion players more purpose and energy. Interestingly, Man City didn’t score until the 27th minute!
  • After the 15 – 20 minutes power play is over and depending on the score, Albion’s Manager Tony Pulis has some interesting choices to make. If losing, does he take the opportunity to bring on an attacking player instead of the sent off defender? Does he take the risk of bringing back on the same player knowing that one more offence will see them red carded for the rest of the game? Does he change tactics and formation? If still 0 – 0, what does he then do?

So, rather than a game that is being shown worldwide on TV turning into a non competitive damp squib of a game, it potentially turns into something completely different. A very interesting, debate provoking game, full of tactical possibilities. The result might not have changed, but it would have had a lot more twists and turns and provided more entertainment than it actually did.


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