Tougher action on tactical fouls by Euro 2024 referees drives spike in yellow cards shown

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Referees taking stricter action on tactical fouls drove a spike in yellow cards shown at the European Championship, UEFA’s head of match officials said Friday.

A crackdown on backchat to the referee — including a booking for Cristiano Ronaldo — also pushed up the number of yellow cards to 166 shown during the 36 group-stage games, compared to 98 at the same stage of the previous edition.

Tactical fouls break up a fast counter by the opposition by committing an offense to force the referee to stop play.

The tactic has been associated with Fernandinho, the former Brazil and Manchester City midfielder, whose defensive duties and willingness to foul opponents allowed more teammates to commit to attack.

“It’s about yellow cards for stopping a promising attack,” UEFA managing director of referee Robeto Rosetti told reporters at an online briefing. “Referees are more alert about this kind of tactical fouls.”

Rosetti said 35 yellow cards were shown for tactical fouls during the group stage in Germany, a more than four-fold increase on eight at the same stage of Euro 2020.

The overall rate of yellow cards stands at 4.6 per game compared to 2.7 at the last tournament.

UEFA promised to show yellow cards to players who defied a pre-tournament order that only captains should approach the referee to debate a decision. UEFA wanted to avoid teams mobbing and trying to intimidate match officials.

So far, there have been 19 yellow cards for dissent compared to 10 at the Euro 2020 group stage. A slew of 18 yellow cards in the Czech Republic-Turkey game that closed the group stage Wednesday evening also raised the average.

Rosetti showed video clips of referees gesturing with an extended arm and hand raised to warn players to back off if they seemed ready to dispute a decision.

“It is a new gesture — strong, proactive. This says: ‘Don’t come.’” said Rosetti, an Italian former referee whose own career peaked when handling the Euro 2008 final.

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

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