Offside’s Premier League A-Z: C is for cards

C is for cards…

What would we do without yellow cards and red cards?

Probably argue even more over referee decisions than we already do, to be honest. Cards came into use for the first time at the 1970 World Cup, spurred on by confusion over decisions at the 1966 tournament.  Much like how goal line technology finally got the momentum it needed to interest the game’s authorities following the controversial chalking off of Frank Lampard’s strike against Germany in South Africa in 2010.

Mark Leech: An end to confusion? Don't tell that to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or was that Kieran Gibbs?
Mark Leech: An end to confusion? Don’t tell that to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or was that Kieran Gibbs?

Their inventor, Ken Ashton, was inspired by the function of traffic lights: yellow for caution, red for stop, or: yellow, take it easy; red, you’re off. Yet, again like goal line technology, the concept of coloured, language-neutral cards that could explain referee judgements in a clear, efficient, visual manner was not a new idea. Similar schemes had been lingering around refereeing circles for years before Ashton’s refining and FIFA’s reactions finally got cards off the ground. Here endeth today’s history lesson.

Premier League record- breakers

Since those halcyon days of yore, cards have grown into being yet another iconic component of the game, brandished by referees, mocked by fans and players alike and feared by footballers already on one yellow, or mid-way through a major tournament having already been booked.

Paul Roberts: Angel Rangel sees the funny side.
Paul Roberts: Angel Rangel sees the funny side.
Mark Leech: A scene worthy of being captured in an oil painting. Look at the levels... the composition!
Mark Leech: A scene worthy of being captured in an oil painting. Look at the levels… the composition!

The spectacle of club football, and the lenses that capture it, have benefited from the intrigue maybe, if you’re into that kind of stuff, but definitely the facial expressions of the all the actors involved. Every sat back and watch a card being unveiled, taking in all the minute details of the scene? It’s like some  hammy, over-acted melodrama performed by the local town’s amateur theatre company. Hilariously over-reactions fill the stage. Outlandish hand gestures appear out of nowhere. Faces contort into every which way in pursuit of clemency, or failing that, justice by other means.

Remember when they tried micing up the referee in a game? It was enough to make Derek and Clive blush.

So here’s to cards. You keep players in line, enliven the post-match pub chatter and provide endless fun for those who enjoy watching the absurd, overheated aftermath of a man showing coloured laminates at millionaires for getting  a simple game wrong.

Marc Atkins: Luis Suarez demands a card is shown to his opponent.
Marc Atkins: Luis Suarez demands a card is shown to his opponent.

Offside is the UK’s leading independent sports photography agency, home to an extensive collection of classic First Division and Premier League pictures as well as other images from across the world of sport. Explore Offside’s unique library at www.welloffside.com.

Follow Offside on Twitter at @welloffside.

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Author: gregianjohnson

Football writer for The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Mirror, Squawka and VICE amongst others. Follow me on Twitter at @gregianjohnson.

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