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Can Soccer Coaches Get Yellow and Red Cards?

Coaches and managers are frequently seen as leaders and mentors. Whether they’re working with toddlers or the most elite players in the world, they’re looked up to as examples for the players under their tutelage. So what happens when a soccer coach displays bad behavior on the sideline? 

Can soccer coaches get yellow and red cards? Soccer coaches can receive yellow and red cards during the game, and they can also be prevented from starting the game if their misconduct happens before the game has kicked off.

Brief Overview of Yellow and Red Card Rules

Every sport has a way to penalize participants for breaking the rules, and in soccer, referees use yellow and red cards. 

Yellow cards are generally for less serious offenses. If a player receives two yellow cards in one game, they are sent off from the pitch for the remainder. The team is not allowed to replace them and must finish the game with one less player.

If a player commits an egregious foul, they may be shown the red card right away. This means they’re immediately sent off the pitch.

Not every foul results in a yellow or red card, and the referees follow instructions and protocol for whether to allow an indirect or direct free kick and if the foul should result in a player receiving a card.

Coaches and Managers Committing Fouls

People who dedicate their lives or a significant amount of their free time to a sport are usually pretty passionate about it. They want to win, and they want their team to be treated fairly. 

Players and coaches alike can take issue with certain things that happen on the field. When that happens, a lot of them complain to the referee or show out on the sideline. This behavior is nothing new, and in the past, referees had some recourse.

Before 2019, if a coach or manager was acting aggressively towards the referee, entering the field of play, or intentionally delaying the game, the referee had the authority to send them out of the field of play for the remainder of the game.

However, this was a very subjective process, and some referees were much laxer with coach behavior than others.

The IFAB Changed the Laws of the Game

The governing body of global soccer, the International Football Association Board, updated the Laws of the Game in 2019 to expand the rules about who could receive a card from the referee. 

Previously, the language in the Laws of the Game was that any player or substitute player on or off the field of play could get carded. They further expanded this rule to include players and “team officials,” which includes members of the coaching staff, up to and including the head coach.

Various leagues implemented pilot programs for giving team officials cards, but on August 4th, 2019, Pep Guardiola was the first Premier League manager to get carded. 

The referee of that game, Martin Atkinson, gave the Manchester City manager a yellow card for shouting and gesturing at one of the officials after Liverpool player Joe Gomez high tackled Manchester City player David Silva.

Rulebook examples of why a team official might be penalized:

Cautioned (given a yellow card):

  • Going into the other team’s technical area in a non-confrontational way
  • Throwing or kicking things on the sideline
  • Gesturing at the referee in a disrespectful manner
  • Excessively indicating that the referee should either give the other team cards and/or calling for the referee to use the VAR

Directly Sent Off

  • Going into the other team’s technical area in a confrontational or aggressive manner
  • Showing aggression towards the referee during the game, at half-time, or at full-time
  • Throwing or kicking items onto the field of play
  • Using offensive language and gestures towards the referee and/or members of the other team
  • Holding the ball, kicking the ball away, or obstructing players to cause intentional delay of game

Coaches and managers may also be sent off if they receive two yellow cards in one match. If a situation occurs where it’s not immediately which team official committed the foul, the caution or send-off is directed at the highest-ranking team official.

Restarting Play

If the offense is verbal in nature, the non-offending team begins play with an indirect free kick. After a physical offense, the non-offending team begins play with a direct free kick.

Generally, the rules for starting play again after a card is shown are the same for team officials and players.

Additional Penalties for Managers Who Receive Cards

Different leagues and tournaments around the world make their own rules about how to penalize players and team officials if they consistently get yellow cards. 

For example, under FA rules, if a manager is shown four yellow cards over the course of the season, they would receive a one-match ban. Eight yellow cards means a two-match ban, 12 cards a three-match ban, and if a manager accumulates 16 yellow cards, they’ll have to face a disciplinary panel.

Serie A executives issued a two-game ban to Roma manager Jose Mourinho in February of 2022 after he got a red card for arguing with a referee and kicking a ball into the stands. They also fined him 20,000 Euros ($21,464) for his misbehavior.

Who Takes Over?

If a manager or coach is sent off, they have to exit the field of play as quickly as possible. The team won’t be completely rudderless, however. 

Most coaches have several team officials on the sideline, and in the event that the head coach isn’t allowed on the sideline anymore, one of the assistant coaches will fill the role. They’ll also be in charge of substituting players and continuing with the game plan that’s decided before the game begins.

The IFAB Wants to Set an Example

By demanding better behavior from the top-ranking managers in the game, the IFAB will set a code of conduct for the rest of the soccer-playing world. These new rules will have widespread ramifications all the way down to children’s leagues.

For instance, if parents are interfering or acting aggressive during a game, the referee could show a yellow card to the coach.

An executive of the EFL, Shaun Harvey, stated that these new rules weren’t about “creating drama,” but rather that they would be “creating clarity.” Certainly having standardized procedures in place to deal with managers and coaches puts the referees in a better position to run the game appropriately.


Although referees didn’t used to be able to card coaches and managers, they could send them off if their behavior was egregious enough. However, after some trial programs in 2018, the IFAB Laws of the Game were updated to include sanctions for team officials. 

They can now receive red and yellow cards during the course of the game, and individual leagues can further enact penalties for coaches and managers who receive cards during the game. 

This move was made to protect referees and to increase accountability for coaches while setting an example for soccer coaches the world over.