Amateur footballers are being robbed of £ 8million a year by red and yellow cards

The issuing of yellow and red cards for offenses in football was invented by an English referee called Ken Aston more than half a century ago.

Aston, of Ilford, London, was in charge of officials for the 1966 World Cup, in which Wembley’s spirited quarter-final against Argentina descended into chaos. There was such confusion over whether German referee Rudolf Kreitlein sent off Antonio Rattin that Aston had to help persuade the Argentina captain to leave the pitch.

And after the game, England manager Sir Alf Ramsey had to contact Fifa to find out if Jack and Bobby Charlton had been warned (Bobby only found out he had not received his only reservation in football. international only 32 years later after asking for confirmation at a FIFA conference).

All of this got Aston thinking and, as he pulled up to the traffic lights on Kensington High Street a day soon after, the solution shone for him: why not have yellow cards as a warning and red to stop the game altogether. of a player.

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The concept was tested at the 1970 Mexico World Cup and then introduced to European club football. Five years later, red cards were dropped by the England Football Association, which felt that the “demonstrative referees” waving them were causing problems. But in the late 1980s, football lawmakers insisted that English football be reinstated.

Nowadays there is an administrative fee attached to the brandishing of cards, whether it’s Cristiano Ronaldo booked for Manchester United or a kid playing amateur football: £ 12 for a yellow card, £ 35 for two yellows leading an expulsion, and £ 45 for a direct red card.

And it turns out it’s quite the money generator for the 51 county federations that govern grassroots football. Examining their most recent accounts and annual reports – it’s not an exact science, trying to find them is a quest full of broken URLs and dead ends – produces amazing results.

According to one estimate – and the information available is so inconsistent that it cannot be estimated that – the county FAs generate around £ 8million a year by fining young amateur boys and girls and adults. The FA did not dispute that figure when I offered it to them. And, quite frankly, the exact number could be much higher.

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Birmingham FA’s audited accounts for 2019/20 show it earned £ 302,852 in fines and appeals in the fiscal year ending 30 June 2019, and £ 194,786 through the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.

The Surrey FA received £ 205,542 for disciplinary costs and fees in 2019, and £ 137,883 the year before. Income has plummeted due to football severely disrupted by Covid-19.

For some, the numbers are less clear: in the 2019/20 Essex FA Annual Report, for example, it is revealed that 13,103 warnings were distributed during the season, with no financial figures attached. According to a very conservative estimate that all 13,103 warnings were single yellows, that means amateur players were charged £ 157,236.

Take a moment to understand that £ 8million is billed to young girls and boys and adult amateurs. Why is the FA fining children, anyway? And why does the processing of a reservation in amateur football always come at a cost? You can understand the administrative costs of sending letters and updating databases in the 1980s, but it’s hard to see how entering information into an online system costs nearly $ 12 today. £ for a yellow, not to mention almost £ 50 for a red.

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Much of the fee will be for adult amateurs (even then £ 45 will be a lot for someone on minimum wage supporting a family that gets a little carried away on a Sunday). But a lot will come from adolescents and children. And the FA doesn’t seem to want you to know how much that is.

These clubs are non-profit organizations, run by unpaid volunteers. Lee Warren was one of them until recently, when he stepped down as secretary of Brentwood Youth AFC to challenge the system.

It costs £ 175 to play for one of the Brentwood Youth teams. But if a young player receives a direct red card, it will be 30% more for the FA coffers.

Warren, 52, has been asking questions for several years now. He is a qualified referee and tried to have the referees wear body cameras so that the decisions could be considered afterwards, but the idea was rejected.

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In 2019, Warren wrote to the Essex FA to ask how much money they were making warning children. “A lot of their income is disciplinary fines,” he tells me.

Many people working – for free – in amateur youth football believe the caveats should be dropped altogether.

Repeated requests were turned down, but when pushed they agreed to a meeting between Essex FA chief executive Brendan Walshe and then FA chief justice officer Mark Ives.

They were so nervous about what the release of those numbers might reveal that they told Warren he could only see the numbers after signing a nondisclosure agreement. Nuts, right?

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An FA spokesperson said I: “County federations, like the FA, are non-profit organizations and all the money generated from disciplinary sanctions is reinvested in football in their local communities.

“The fines are only one aspect of our holistic approach to encouraging all participants to play football in accordance with the rules and regulations, and they are proportionate to discourage misconduct and facilitate efficient administration.”

They may be nonprofits, but they employ executives who earn hundreds of thousands of salaries. It sounds a lot like an administration fee and fines for warning young amateur footballers – but if you want to find out the truth, you will probably have to sign an NDA.


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