The introduction of blue cards in football could potentially hinder the progress of the sport, according to Karen Carney.

The introduction of blue cards in football could potentially hinder the progress of the sport, according to Karen Carney.


Innovation is crucial for the prosperity of all industries, including football. While new concepts are meant to drive progress, the proposed implementation of blue cards and sin-bins for dissent and tactical fouls would be a regressive move for the sport.

We must eliminate disagreement, but compromising the quality of the event is not the solution. Referees should not be mistreated and players must learn to manage their behavior in high-pressure situations where one decision can significantly impact a game or season. However, if they cross the line, officials have the ability to penalize them with a yellow or red card. These tactics could be utilized more frequently to support referees. Introducing an alternative approach does not appear beneficial as it would only complicate matters further.

Frequently, it is stated that a player’s ejection “spoils the game” since it can lead to one team resorting to time-wasting tactics. A team with a player in the penalty box may opt to defend in a compact formation, making the game uneventful for viewers. Nobody wants to spend their hard-earned money to watch a match – whether in person or on TV – only to witness a team using various tactics to delay the game and allow their teammate to return without conceding a goal.

Ironically, our efforts to prevent wasting time are hindered by the use of the blue card, which pushes us to our limits. Moreover, this tactic would make the game less exciting. If referees routinely utilized yellow and red cards for instances of dissent and cynical, tactical fouls, it would encourage players to improve their behavior.

Things have improved when it comes to dissent at the top level; gone are the days when 10 players would surround the referee. One thing VAR has helped with is that trying to influence the referee is almost redundant because teams know key decisions are reviewed away from the pitch.

I understand the challenges that referees face, especially at the grassroots level. In the past, I volunteered as a coach for an under-11s boys’ team and had to step in as a referee when one did not show up. It was important for the game to proceed, but I was surprised by the negative reactions I received while making decisions during a children’s match. My goal was to make fair calls, ensure the safety of players, and create a positive environment. However, some parents on the sidelines were relentless in their criticism and shouting towards me. This experience showed me the difficulties of being a referee at any level. It also changed my perspective as a player on the field – instead of criticizing decisions, I became more understanding and was influenced by our manager’s attitude of not wanting our team to constantly complain about referees.

Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp scores the opening goal against Leicester during the  Women’s Super League match at the Joie StadiumView image in fullscreen

This experience gave me a new perspective and it would be valuable for players to understand refereeing from a different viewpoint. Maybe those who criticize the referee could attend a training course and be required to officiate a local game – this would help them understand the challenges of refereeing. Education is just as crucial as having consequences.

Sin-bins have been used in Sunday league and they are a fantastic incentive for players to be more courteous to the referee because without officials there will be no game. It is necessary to differentiate, though, between grassroots and elite football on certain aspects. At youth level a key focus is on the education of players to allow them to learn the rights and wrongs of football, whether that is how to cross a ball or be respectful to an official, so I can see the benefits of its usage.

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The biggest shift in professional soccer in recent times has been the implementation of VAR. Even though it has become a regular part of the men’s game at the highest level, there are still ongoing problems that need to be addressed. Suggestions of incorporating blue cards and sin-bins into the game may seem overly optimistic, according to those proposing the idea.

The blue card will also be tested in women’s football. I acknowledge and support the desire for consistency in the rules, as football is football. However, the women’s game currently does not have goalline technology or VAR as standard. I understand that some may argue that implementing a new card is more costly than goalline technology, but for the women’s game, goalline technology is crucial in the near future. The cost should not be a barrier – this is the highest level of women’s football and the consequences are too great not to have it.

According to Ange Postcoglou, the head coach of Tottenham, sin-bins will have a negative impact on football. While the authorities have good intentions, their proposed solutions may ultimately harm the sport. Football remains a straightforward game and the solutions are often just as straightforward.