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I saw this video, where Kevin-Prince Boateng was sent off for picking up the ball and kicking it at the stands after racist chants from the fans. I wondered if this is possible: that a player can be sent off, while not receiving a red card which will affect his permanent record and likely result in being banned from several matches. Is this possible? And has it ever happened? (I don't think Boateng's case really counted, because of the circumstances.)

  • I am not sure whether he was really sent off. The Wikipedia article describes the incident as follows: "On 3 January 2013, Milan was playing Italian Lega Pro 2 side Pro Patria in a mid-season friendly when Boateng and several other Milan players were the targets of racist chanting from a section of the Pro Patria crowd. Boateng reacted by kicking the ball into the stands before leaving the pitch, and was followed off by his teammates. The match was subsequently abandoned." – Martin Aug 28 '17 at 7:47
  • I will also add a link to the current revision of the Wikipedia article, in case it is changed. – Martin Aug 28 '17 at 7:47
  • Thanks, @martin. But is it possible for a ref to send off a player without a red? – Yaakov Ainspan Aug 28 '17 at 8:30
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    Your "example" is not a case of the question you're asking, then, and it should be disincluded. – Nij Aug 28 '17 at 9:43
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    This question is based on a false premise - that a "red card" is a sanction. The sanction is a send-off, the red card is just a signal. – studro Aug 29 '17 at 1:52
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Law 12 of IFAB Laws of the Game, Fouls and Misconduct, 3. Disciplinary Action states:

The yellow card communicates a caution and the red card communicates a sending-off.

The sending-off is the sanction; the showing of a red card is simply the official signal for this sanction.


Focusing on the concrete example you mentioned, it should be stated that leaving the field of play without being substituted is not a sending-off offence. Here is the complete list of sending-off offences from aforementioned Law 12:

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

  • denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (except a goalkeeper within their penalty area)
  • denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent whose overall movement is towards the offender’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick (unless as outlined below)
  • serious foul play
  • spitting at an opponent or any other person
  • violent conduct
  • using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
  • receiving a second caution in the same match

However, kicking the ball deliberately at the spectators in the manner that Boateng did is an unsportsmanlike behavior, for what he had to be at least cautioned if not sent off considering the force he used during the kick.

  • "So, if a player has to be sent off, referee has to show the red card." A counterexample: in lower level matches without official referees, where the club provides a non-qualified referee who only has a whistle and no cards, are you saying that the referee cannot send players off? – studro Aug 29 '17 at 1:54
  • "However, kicking the ball deliberately at the spectators is an unsportsmanlike behavior, which has to be cautioned." I also have problems with this statement. Depending on the force used, this could also be a send off, or no sanction at all. – studro Aug 29 '17 at 1:57
  • @studro, your first comment seems picky. The OP defined the context of football in the professional level by providing example of Boateng. We can take it as granted, that OP is not interested in "lower level matches without official referees". Your second comment is useful though, I will elaborate on the statement a little bit. Thanks. – gdrt Aug 29 '17 at 10:44
  • "the red card communicates a sending-off", yes, but that does not necessarily mean that the referee cannot communicate a sending-off in other ways. – Vidar S. Ramdal Aug 29 '17 at 12:41
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    Yes, but that point that we're trying to make is that a send-off is a send-off, regardless of whether the referee uses the official signal (showing a red card), or simply pointing to the stands / advising a player that they've been sent-off. They both result in the same disciplinary outcome, as they're the same sanction. – studro Aug 29 '17 at 13:16

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