Can a player in football be given a red card during substitution because of entering the field long before the player being substituted exits? I'm curious to know this because in most of the matches that I've watched, the new player only enters after the substituted player exits

  • 5
    @Nij, this is not a duplicate as OP asks about a red card given to the replacing player (not the replaced one).
    – Bebs
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 6:49
  • Yellow can be given, red? No.
    – Don_Biglia
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 6:55
  • A second yellow card and therefore red card can be given to a substitute or to a player about to be substituted. Likely it would not be, but you're making a blanket statement which is not correct. @Don_Biglia
    – Nij
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 7:29
  • 1
    A dismissal for a second caution is still a dismissal and carries identical weight in the laws. Red cards are red cards, regardless of why they were given. @Don_Biglia
    – Nij
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 8:49
  • 2
    This is not a duplicate. The suggested duplicate is about players who are leaving being cautioned/sent-off, not substitutes who are entering. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 23:55

1 Answer 1


The answer is no, but they may be cautioned (which may indirectly result in a send-off for a second caution).

However, this question demonstrates why it is important to get the terminology used in the Laws of the Game correct so that there is no ambiguity.

As defined throughout Law 3 - The Players:

  • A player is one of the (up to) 11 active participants in the match.
  • A substitute is one of the potential replacements for a player, who must be named before the match.
  • A substituted player is a participant who was previously a player and was replaced by a substitute and may not take any further part in the match.

As defined in 3.3 - Substitution Procedure, when a substitution occurs - a player becomes a substituted player and a substitute becomes a player. If return substitutions are in use for the match, the player instead becomes a substitute (that is, they may be used again).

Now to answer the question, which appears to be about a substitute entering the field too early (not a player), the substitution procedure also states:

The substitute only enters:

  • during a stoppage in play
  • at the halfway line
  • after the player being replaced has left
  • after receiving a signal from the referee

The infringements and sanctions section of Law 3 - The Players (section 3.5) states:

For any other infringements of this Law:

  • the players1 are cautioned
  • play is restarted with an indirect free kick, from the position of the ball when play was stopped2

1 - I've just gone on a tirade about using the correct terminology, and here we have an example of the Laws themselves being incorrect. This sanction does not just apply to players, but also to substitutes and substituted players.

2 - This is only if the offence happened while the ball was still in play and isn't one punished by a direct free kick. If the ball was still in play, and as in this specific example, the substitute has entered the field incorrectly, the restart is a direct free kick [3.7]. If the ball is out of play, play restarts with the previous restart [12.4].

Therefore in practice, if substitutes are entering the field before the other player has left during the substitution procedure, in practice:

  • If the offence is only minor, the referee will use their discretion granted by Law 5, Section 2, Paragraph 1 to either ignore the offence or warn the team to adhere to the correct substitution procedure.
  • If the offence is blatant or the procedure continues being flouted by a team after having been warned, the referee will ask the substitute to leave the field, caution them for entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission, and have them then re-enter the field correctly (provided by that point the player being substituted has left) to complete the substitution procedure correctly and become a valid player.
  • If this is the substitute's second caution, they are sent off for receiving a second caution in the same match and instead do not re-enter the field as a player after being sanctioned. Since they never became a player (and the player leaving never became a substitute / substituted player), the team does not play short. They may either opt for the player that was being replaced to continue, or use another substitute (if there are any eligible substitutes remaining).

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