At one time, I know I read an interpretation/guidance from the IFAB that a referee who forgets to show the red card following the giving of a second yellow can still issue the red card at a later time upon either realizing the error himself or being informed of his error by a member of the officiating team. Further in such a case, any major game events associated with the now-dismissed player still stand even if they occurred after the second yellow card (e.g., a goal scored). I lost some of my historical materials in a move and now cannot find any reference to this except in USSF's Advice to Referees. Can anyone point me to an IFAB source?

2 Answers 2


From IFAB laws of the game,

The referee may not change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official if play has restarted or the referee has signalled the end of the first or second half (including extra time) and left the field of play or terminated the match.

But the rule in 2005 was introduced as,

The referee may change their decision upon realising that it is incorrect or, at their discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee, provided that they have not already restarted play or terminated the match.

This means forgoted Red card can be given, only if play hasn't restarted or the referee hasn't signalled the end of the first or second half (including extra time) and left the field of play or terminated the match.

And from FAQ of IFAB:

Q.Why has reference to ‘left the field of play at the end of the half’ been added to when a referee can no longer change a decision?

This is because there have been examples of referees wrongly changing a decision during half-time (because it was claimed that play had not restarted).

I have been able to find two such incidents of forgetting Red cards, one in World cup by English referee Graham Poll (2) and another by referee Mick Russell.


The Laws do not specifically account for this type of incident, as technically speaking, it should not occur. If it does occur, the referee needs to send-off the player as soon as they realise, even if it means stopping play to do so (unless the other team has a clear goalscoring opportunity and advantage can be played - in this case it is dealt with when the player to be sent-off interferes with play or an opponent).

The exact wording of the sending of offence in Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct, Section 3 - Disciplinary Action is:

A player, substitute or substituted player who commits any of the following offences is sent off:


  • receiving a second caution in the same match

Law 5 - The Referee, Section 2 - Decisions of the Referee states:

The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final. The decisions of the referee, and all other match officials, must always be respected.

The referee may not change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official if play has restarted or the referee has signalled the end of the first or second half (including extra time) and left the field of play or terminated the match.

The provision in Law 5 regarding not changing a decision once play has restarted does not apply here for two reasons:

  • Firstly, sending off a player who has received a second caution is not a fact connected with play - it is a fact connected with Law. The referee is only empowered to make decisions regarding facts connected with play. It is impossible by Law to made a decision to not send-off the player. If a player receives a second caution, they must be sent off as soon as the referee realises. By sending the player off (albeit later than it should have occurred), the referee is making a correction to a continuous misapplication of procedure that has occurred from the moment the second caution was issued up to the point of the send-off - they are not changing a decision so to speak.

  • Secondly, a player having received two cautions (as touched upon above) is a continuous offence. The fact that play has restarted does not change the fact that the player is continuing to commit a sending-off offence by remaining as a player.

    If a restart occurring somehow nullified this continuous sending-off offence, it would also bar the referee from taking action on other continuous offences that began before a restart, such as a team having too many players on the field of play. Of course this is not the case - if a team has too many players on the field of play, it is dealt with as soon as is amenable to the non-offending team - likewise, a player wrongly remaining on the field of play after two cautions if sent-off as soon as possible after the referee realises (unless advantage is played).

If play is stopped to send-off a player who received two cautions, the referee restarts play with an indirect free kick from where they were located. From in Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct, Section 3 - Disciplinary Action:

Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play, violent conduct or a second cautionable offence unless there is a clear opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player when the ball is next out of play but if the player plays the ball or challenges/interferes with an opponent, the referee will stop play, send off the player and restart with an indirect free kick, unless the player committed a more serious offence.

As to your supplementary question on whether the result stands, as you're probably aware, this is not a matter for the referee.

Law 5 - The Referee, 3 - Powers and Duties states that (emphasis added):

The referee:


  • acts as timekeeper, keeps a record of the match and provides the appropriate authorities with a match report, including information on disciplinary action and any other incidents that occurred before, during or after the match

The referee simply reports what occurred (a mistake of this magnitude would certainly be reported as an "incident"), and if any goals were scored, etc. with the player remaining on the field, and the competition administrator would apply the appropriate competition rules.

This is a misapplication of the Laws of the Game, so if it had any impact on the match, the only fair outcome would be a replay, as the culpable party here is the referee, not either team.

Most competition rules that I'm aware of either stipulate a replayed match in this instance where it had an effect on the result or leave it at the discretion of the competition administrator. If left in the hands of a competition administrator, in my experience, most competition administrators would make the decision to replay the match if the result was affected by such a misapplication of the Laws.

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