Yellow and red cards distribution across the European top 5 leagues this season

The most recent weekend of European football action is already in the past, and SportingPedia‘s team decided to examine one essential aspect of the game – the number of yellow and red cards shown in the continent’s top five leagues.

The cards distribution in each individual championship is very important, as it will show where the referees are quick to bring out the card to discipline players by issuing an official warning, and where they are more amicable towards the individuals with whom they share the field for 90 minutes.

Our data analysis reveals a significant variation, particularly in the distribution of red cards. With only 7 sendings off in all football matches since the start of the season, the Premier League is on top of the fair play charts. On the opposite side is the French Ligue 1, with a total of 39 footballers being sent off.

We should clarify that there is no correlation between the number of issued red cards and the number of injuries in the separate European leagues. That means that a higher number of red cards in a specific championship does not cause more injuries among players. However, it reveals how referees adapt to the specific style of football play in different championships.

Some of the key points

  • Premier League is on top of the fair play charts since the start of the season
  • French League 1 is on the opposite side with the highest number of sent-off players (39)
  • The highest-ranked football clubs based on fair play in the top 5 divisions are: Manchester City, Real Madrid, Roma, Union Berlin and Lorient

The Premier League

In 77 matches of the 22/23 season so far, the English referees issued 285 yellow cards and 7 red cards. They try to remain a peripheral figure during the 90 minutes, but sometimes officials put too much effort into that, instead of pulling the cards when necessary. This weekend, in the North London derby, Arsenal’s captain Martin Odegaard was spared the warning when clearly he deserved a yellow card. This was not the first similar case in the Premier League, scoring the lowest number of red cards across Europe’s top five leagues. However, as the latest round of Premier League action showed, it’s too early in the season to decide on any final scores. Just this weekend, there were three red cards, which brought the season’s total to seven. Fourteen of the twenty teams are still to be reduced to 10 men.

Premier League
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Manchester City50050.638
Brighton80081.147
Brentford1000101.258
West Ham1000101.258
Leicester1100111.388
Southampton1100111.388
Liverpool601111.577
Crystal Palace1200121.717
Newcastle1400141.758
Arsenal1500151.888
Bournemouth1500151.888
Everton1800182.258
Aston Villa2000202.508
Leeds1510182.577
Tottenham1601212.638
Wolverhampton1601212.638
Chelsea1320192.717
Nottingham2400243.008
Manchester United2300233.297
Fulham2301283.508

La Liga

With 345 yellow cards thus far, the Spanish top flight takes the second place with most warnings among the top five European leagues. La Liga has been renowned for the fiery style of football, and players often go too far with their defensive plans. Also, the referees are always happy to book footballers for having a brawl. When considering the number of red cards that were shown to players, somehow La Liga is not close to the top with 26 sending-offs, trailing behind Ligue 1 considerably. We put that down to the players knowing when to stop. Let’s not forget that Spanish teams have mastered the skill of dragging the play out, as proven numerous times on the European scene. Six La Liga sides are yet to see their player being sent off.

La Liga
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Real Madrid90091.297
Athletic Bilbao1100111.577
Villarreal1400142.007
Girona1500152.147
Barcelona1410172.437
Real Sociedad1700172.437
Valladolid1401192.717
Rayo Vallecano1810213.007
Celta1801233.297
Atletico Madrid1511233.297
Cadiz1711253.577
Betis1602263.717
Espanyol1103263.717
Valencia1412273.867
Elche1802284.007
Getafe1821294.147
Mallorca3000304.297
Almeria2701324.577
Osasuna2302334.717
Sevilla2611344.867

Serie A

The Italian league has seen the most yellow cards, with 347 issued in 80 matches thus far. The Serie A referees are rarely contemplating whether they should issue the first official warning, but when it comes to red cards, they seem to be hesitant. As a result, there have been a total of 15 dismissals so far. Some 23 yellow cards had to be given before a red one came out of the ref’s pocket. Three of the eight Serie A rounds in the 22/23 season, including the most recent one, have seen no red cards. Eleven of the twenty teams have been recipients of red cards.

Serie A
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Roma1000101.258
Napoli1200121.508
Inter1400141.758
Monza1600162.008
Spezia1510182.258
Fiorentina1510182.258
Torino1800182.258
Lecce2000202.508
Milan1810212.638
Bologna1411222.758
Cremonese1701222.758
Sampdoria2300232.888
Sassuolo1801232.888
Lazio1801232.888
Juventus1112243.008
Empoli1502253.138
Salernitana2001253.138
Udinese2101263.258
Verona2600263.258
Atalanta2600263.258

Bundesliga

The Bundesliga has witnessed the lowest number of yellow cards and the 2nd lowest for red cards, with 268 and 14, respectively. Despite seeing twice as many red cards as the Premier League, the referees in the German Bundesliga have issued far less yellow cards than the ones in England. It makes sense why they are one of the least-discussed officials in Europe. Seven of the 18 clubs in the German top-flight league are yet to experience how it feels to play with a reduced squad.

Bundesliga
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Union Berlin1000101.258
Bayern Munich1100111.388
Eintracht Frankfurt910121.508
Freiburg1200121.508
Bochum1300131.638
Wolfsburg1600162.008
Borussia Monchengladbach1101162.008
RB Leipzig1101162.008
Koln1410172.138
Werder Bremen1700172.138
Borussia Dortmund1900192.388
Hoffenheim1610192.388
Hertha Berlin1710202.508
Schalke1701222.758
Bayer Leverkusen1121222.758
Augsburg2210253.138
Mainz2001253.138
Stuttgart2211303.758

Ligue 1

The most curious case is in the French highest division of professional football. The match officials in Ligue 1 have issued 312 yellow cards – the third-highest number of the five analysed championships, yet the highest number of red cards – 39. The only reasonable explanation for such a result is that the players in the French top flight are more prone into going in hard tackles, resulting in a higher risk for the opposition footballers’ health. There are only two remaining Ligue 1 teams who are still to witness one of their players sent off.

Ligue 1
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Lorient1110141.569
Toulouse1210151.679
Lyon1101161.789
Lens1201171.899
PSG1900192.119
Nantes1401192.119
Clermont Foot1710202.229
Troyes1601212.339
Brest1601212.339
Lille2100212.339
Marseille1910222.449
Monaco1221232.569
Angers1221232.569
Auxerre1031242.679
Strasbourg1212252.789
Rennes2011283.119
Nice1512283.119
Ajaccio2420303.339
Montpellier1904394.339
Reims2015485.339

Fouls that look tough on camera might leave the player unscratched, but may also result in a severe injury. This is the reason why we were unable to establish a link between the number of issued red cards and the number of injuries in the separate leagues. Players also get injured while on international duty, but that might be a cause of the footballers being jaded and in need of rest.