I read somewhere that a red card should automatically be awarded if a defender hand balls the soccer ball in the penalty area. I do not know whether this is substantiated, it seems rather harsh if the handball is accidental.

It got me thinking, are all fouls in the penalty box which lead to a penalty kick always penalised with a red card as well? If not, what percentage of penalty kicks are awarded in conjunction with red cards, and for what offences?

  • 3
    As to your initial question: It would definitely be too harsh. 1) Accidental handball is not a foul at all, only deliberate handling is penalized (note that in practice, this may be judged with quite a broad definition of “deliberate”, including “he should have been aware his movement may lead to [otherwise accidental] handling the ball”). 2) Even deliberate handling in penalty area leads automatically only to the penalty kick. It is a red card only if the defender, by handling the ball, denied the opposing team an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
    – Mormegil
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 20:10
  • thanks. Just to clarify, if a defender in the penalty box was turned away from the ball (say running towards the goal), and the ball was accidentally kicked into his hand, then would this be punished? If so, what would the punishment be?
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 23:34
  • This is also very timely: sports.stackexchange.com/questions/9237/…
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 23:40
  • 1
    @Alex Unless the ball is handled deliberately, there is no punishment. Whether it's within the penalty area has no effect on determining whether it's an offence or not - all it determines is the restart if there is a deliberate handling. Inside = penalty kick, outside = direct free kick. The accepted answer covers when a card is necessary. Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 2:05
  • A slight variation on this myth that I hear more commonly: "When the goalkeeper handles the ball outside of his penalty area, it must be a red card". Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 2:06

1 Answer 1


No. Not all offences in the penalty box lead to a red card.

Many offences within the penalty box lead to no further action than a penalty being given. The referee can also show a yellow card for offences within the penalty box. If the yellow card shown is the second one received by the player during the match, the player must be sent off.

Red (sent off) or yellow (cautioned) cards are to be shown for the following offences according to FIFA Laws of the Game, Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct

Sending-off offences

A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offences:
• serious foul play
• violent conduct
• spitting at an opponent or any other person
• denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)
• denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick
• using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
• receiving a second caution in the same match

Now it's up to the referee's discretion as to whether the offence falls within any of the above categories.

Cautionable offences

A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the following seven offences:
• unsporting behaviour
• dissent by word or action
• persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game
• delaying the restart of play
• failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in
• entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission
• deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission

Again it is completely up to the referee's discretion to judge whether the offence falls under any of the above categories.

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