In Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) of the IFAB Laws of the Game, it states that:

A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences against an opponent in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:

What do careless, reckless and excessive force mean, and do these have any affect on other sanctions (eg. cards) that a player might receive?

  • How does this work, you post a question and an answer at the same time? What is the point of that?
    – Don_Biglia
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 8:40
  • 2
    @Don_Biglia - I find myself including all of this information in answers a lot, so to avoid repetition and very long answers, I thought I'd just post it here. That way, I can use a one-sentence summary in other answers and include a link back to here. The point of answering your own question is to contribute information to the site for the benefit of others. It's always been encouraged on Stack Exchange sites. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 0:12
  • As an aside, I'm going to wait a tiny bit longer before marking my answer as accepted, so that if a better answer appears, I can select that instead. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 0:13

2 Answers 2


In Law 12.1, the following definitions are provided for careless, reckless, and excessive force:

Careless is when a player shows a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or acts without precaution. No disciplinary sanction is needed.

Examples of careless fouls are shown here, here and here.

Reckless is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent and must be cautioned

yellow card

A player who commits a reckless foul is cautioned for unsporting behaviour.

In Law 12.3:

There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour including if a player:


  • commits in a reckless manner a direct free kick offence


Examples of reckless fouls are shown here, here1 and here.

1 - The referee appears to give the decision to the incorrect team here.

Using excessive force is when a player exceeds the necessary use of force and endangers the safety of an opponent and must be sent off

red card

A player who commits an excessively forceful foul is sent-off for:

  • serious foul play, if the foul was committed whilst challenging for the ball; or
  • violent conduct, the foul was committed while not challenging for the ball.

In Law 12.3:

A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play.


Violent conduct is when a player uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball, or against a team-mate, team official, match official, spectator or any other person, regardless of whether contact is made.

Examples of excessively forceful fouls are shown here, here and here.


Usually related to intent or generally careless use of your body and lack of control to the point where you're simply irresponsible in an already dangerous sport.

  • 2
    Any sources to back up your answer?
    – gdrt
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 8:26
  • Sorry I guess nothing on paper just played and watched contact sports my whole life.
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 9:46
  • 1
    The question is specifically about football, and these terms are defined. Vague descriptions based on anecdotes which may not even reflect the sport are unhelpful. This response adds nothing to the well-referenced answer written by studro 10 months ago, and interferes with a clear understanding of the definitions in LOTG. -1 and flagged as VLQ.
    – Nij
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 10:48

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