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Orange cards getting the headlines, but FIFA’s presidential campaigners could provide fertile debates over future of the sport

Jan 21, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

Referee Cesar Muniz showed cards to nine different Elche players. Getty Images

As we told you yesterday, Jérôme Champagne wants to be your new FIFA president. Part of his campaign includes the introduction of some ideas to improve the game. Getting the headlines today is the concept of “orange” cards that would send players, essentially, to the equivalent of hockey’s penalty box.

Worse than a yellow but better than a red, the card is an interesting idea but there’s a larger idea here: could the campaigns to replace Sepp Blatter produce a better football? Champagne is just one man up for the job and wants to see a proper, televised debate between all candidates. With ideas like his, in all honesty I can’t wait to see what else is proffered.

From the BBC…

His other proposals include:

  • Quotas for foreign players
  • Implementing rugby’s rule where only the captain can talk to the referee with a free-kick advanced 10 yards for any dissent
  • Abolishing the ‘triple punishment’ rule where a player who prevents a goalscoring opportunity in the penalty areas concedes a spot-kick, is sent off and also suspended
  • All Fifa presidential candidates taking part in live debates on television and in front of the six continental confederations
  • Making public the salary of the Fifa president and leading officials

Leaving aside the merit of any specific rule, this should provide some great viewing/reading/listening leading up to the June 2015 election.

As for orange cards, most fear change but it’s an intriguing idea. Provided they don’t then dip into further hues — the ‘peach’ card or the ‘atomic tangerine’ card — it could work.

“Oh, dear, a clattering tackle from Coloccini on Borini. Is it? Could it be, Lee?”

“Yes, Arlo… Mariner is reaching for the papaya whip card.”

  1. dfstell - Jan 21, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    Love the idea of an orange card. The problem with the current rules is that the tools the referees have to manage the game are too blunt. Basically all they have are sending offs and penalty kicks and both are drastic calls that usually determine the outcome of the game. Should a team *really* be consigned to losing just because of ONE bad tackle?

    On the other hand, if you reduce the penalty, you’ll see more bad tackles. But, I’d like to see referees given more tools to manage this stuff.

    Now, fix penalty kicks so that refs don’t ignore fouls in the box and handballs because they think the foul “wasn’t THAT bad”. Just have something other than a traditional PK. Maybe a handball is a direct kick from the top of the D. I’ll bet the success rate on that shot is probably more like 30%.

    • geojock - Jan 21, 2014 at 8:51 AM

      Agreed they are very blunt. You have a game decided by the narrowest of points in sports, with some of the harshest penalties in sports, officiated by the least number of officials in sports.

      • bostonredsoccer - Jan 21, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        I’m curious — do any other team sports allow for the sending off of a player without eventual replacement? Playing a man down seems awfully harsh, especially with such limited substitutions available in the first place.

      • tinag2014 - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:09 PM

        Make the Yellow card the one that issues a 5 minute penalty and keep the Red a sending off.

        To answer the question, do other sports have cards and sending offs without replacement, yes. Field Hockey for one. Field Hockey has a lot of the same sportsmanship philosophies as soccer with fair play etc. And they have a 3 card system. Green is a warning (like soccer’s yellow), Yellow is a penalty (like ice hockey with duration dependent on the offense), and Red is a sending off with no replacement.

        Soccer can have little scoring. Especially in big tournaments, teams often play for a draw and are willing to defend at all costs (fouls acceptable), I have no issue with the concept of a sending off without replacement.

    • lyleoross - Jan 21, 2014 at 11:43 AM


      Shouldn’t a team that cheats in the penalty box be punished heavily? Presumably, the referees are taught to think about the situation (they are) and make the call that is warranted by the actions and play on the field (they try to) and to make no call if they can’t make the right call (this is harder to say). If a player knocks down a certain goal in the penalty box with his hand, then he should be punished harshly. The idea is to make the penalty stiff enough that players don’t do it.

      Players measure the value of their fouls, cost and benefit, in many if not most situations. If you change the dynamic of the punishment, then they will step into the hole fully. The consequences of that will be very large in the greater game.

      Non-calls are part of the game, judging a player’s intent on a foul or handball is something a referee is in a good position to do, he is on the field, knows the mood of the players, and their style. When I hear fans second guess, I wonder why they think they know better than the guy on the pitch?

      If, as stake holders in the game, we feel that plays are being called badly, don’t change the rules, add in a replay option. Allow for review of plays on the part of the referee with a secondary judge. Note that it appears that some teams receive favoritism in terms of such things. Changing the rules won’t fix that they will just get more orange card advantages, but reviewing calls might. BTW – IMO this is the biggest problem the sport has, favoritism.

      Remember, the use of a stiff penalty within the box came about because players quickly learned that a foul for a prevented goal was a cheap price to pay to significantly affect the outcome. Early participants ramped up the penalty until the situation balanced. The penalties were made stiff enough so that the number of incidences fell precipitously. The number of penalty kicks that occur is approximately 100 per year based on what I can find. That isn’t a ton.

      Last, in general, there seems to be a good balance of the better teams winning consistently. If PKs were really impacting the game that much, then you’d expect a wider distribution of wins with a greater amount of random outcomes. That doesn’t seems to happen.

      • lyleoross - Jan 21, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        Sorry, 100 per year in the EPL.

    • underthecletes - Jan 21, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      If a rule is implemented to send a man off temporarily, I don’t think there is a need for another card. Just change the rules so that a yellow sends the player off for 5 minutes (2 minutes is too short for a soccer game). If they get a second yellow, he gets sent off for the game, per usual.

      • Sgc - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:57 PM

        Agree with that. Part of the problem is that the worst punishments in the game are too severe (enough that refs tend to fear to call them)–but part of the problem is that the more mundane infractions are not punished severely enough. If you institute an ‘orange card’ that is between yellow and red, players will laugh at you over the yellows.

        I tend to phrase the criticism this way: the problem is that the punishment system goes straight from the trivial to the catastrophic with almost nothing in between. The yellow, in that case, is part of the trivial.

    • tinag2014 - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:59 PM

      I would rather have the yellow card have more weight. Make it the card that gives a 5 minutes penalty.

  2. geojock - Jan 21, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    I don’t know if orange cards are a good idea, but I have always thought soccer rules (or the way that they are enforced) were a bit archaic.

  3. tarotsujimoto74 - Jan 21, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    “Implementing rugby’s rule where only the captain can talk to the referee with a free-kick advanced 10 yards for any dissent”

    Just use this rule for all Clasicos

  4. lyleoross - Jan 21, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Hockey plays a man down in foul situations. The change isn’t permanent, and the balance seems to be more even, but it clearly changes the play dynamic on the ice.

    The notion of a red card not leaving a team a player down has a huge risk. You will introduce the concept of the enforcer. A player who’s job it is to rough up forwards. Yes, he might red card out, but if you can replace him to stay at eleven, then the risk is minimized.

  5. gazelle63 - Jan 21, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    It opens the way for advertisers to insert their commercials during the game, just like in hockey. You also see it in basketball and American football- the games are so slow now because of too many rules stoppages and resulting commercials. Advertisers now control the pace of those games. You want the same for this one?

    • lauranine9 - Jan 21, 2014 at 6:03 PM

      Rule changes in last ten years have led to shorter hockey games and fewer stoppages. The nfl and nba though, you are spot on.

      • Sgc - Jan 25, 2014 at 9:41 AM

        I like hockey’s version of the advantage rule, which is that you simply don’t blow the whistle until the offending team has regained control of the puck. There’s none of the judgement call stuff about whether it’s “really” an advantage or not. I’d like to see that brought over to soccer–you let them keep playing as long as the team that suffered the foul can keep the ball, then once they lose it, you march it back to the foul spot for a free kick. Also kinda reminds me of the scenario in a gridiron football game when the defense is offside, it’s a ‘free play’ for the team that suffered the infraction.

  6. chadmoon1 - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    I have a better solution to the problem of dissent. When the referee deems that a team has dissented too much during the game, he issues a “team” yellow card, shown to either the captain or the bench. If the team persists in dissent, the team is given a “team” red card. The opposing team then gets to choose what field player (not the goalkeeper) is sent off, and the team then plays with 10 players.

    • Sgc - Jan 25, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      That got all downvotes, but it’s not the worst idea. In situations where the team rather than an individual player is the offender (which is often the case with dissent), refs should be able to punish the team as a whole. It only makes sense.

  7. mikeevergreen - Jan 22, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    Make sure that there’s a penalty box to server the five, just like hockey. No talking to your coach and teammates while on penalty.

  8. fitz79 - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    Orange cards is a stupid idea. I see no reason to think the 2 card system -yellow/red is not working. It’s called the “beautiful game” for a reason. Keep it simple and don’t introduce more referee fueled complications.

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