Alabama High School Soccer Undergoes Eligibility Rule Changes

Changes in the penalties for Alabama High School soccer players receiving misconducts have had very little effect on the numbers and types of cards issued during the 1997 and 1998 Alabama high school soccer seasons (note: high soccer is a spring sport in Alabama). Although ineligibility penalties for yellow cards were eliminated, there was a slight increase in the number of yellow cards issued per game in 1997, but the number of yellow cards issued per game in 1998 was almost equivalent to 1996. At the same time, revised red card (includes red/yellow cards) penalties seemed to have very little effect on the number of. red cards (ejections) issued per game.

During the 1996 spring season and for several years prior, penalties for Alabama high school soccer players receiving misconducts were as follows: the first accumulation of three yellow cards – ineligible for the next game; the second accumulation of three yellow cards – ineligible for the next two games; the third accumulation of three yellow cards – ineligible for the remainder of the season; the first red card – ineligible for the next game; the second red card – ineligible for the next two games; and the third red card – ineligible for the remainder of the season.

For the 1997 and 1998 seasons, soccer eligibility rules regarding a misconduct were changed to conform to the rules in effect for other high school sports. All penalties for yellow cards were eliminated. The red card (or red/yellow) penalties are as follows: a player’s first red card – the principal at the player’s school receives a warning from the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA); a second red card – the player is ineligible for the next game; and a third red card – the player is ineligible for the remainder of the season.

Prior to 1997, misconduct card totals had to be kept by each team, and the coach was responsible for enforcing the penalty. With the new rules, the referee who gives the ejection must submit a report to the AHSAA, and the AHSAA is responsible for informing the school and seeing that the penalty is enforced.

In 1996, 649 game reports were sent by the head referee in each contest to this writer. In these 649 games, there were 545 yellow cards and 104 red cards given out. This resulted in an average of .84 yellow cards and .16 red cards per game.

In 1997, 513 game reports were submitted. In these 513 games, there were 486 yellow cards and 71 red cards awarded, resulting in an average of .95 yellow cards and .14 red cards for game.

In 1998, 747 game reports were submitted. In these 747 games, there were 612 yellow cards and 113 red cards. This resulted in an average of .82 yellow cards and .15 red cards for game.

As reported above, except for a slight increase in the number of yellow cards given in 1997, the change in the penalties given to players who receive red and yellow cards has had little effect on the average number of red and yellow cards given per game. Although there has been little change in the average number of cards given, there has been considerable criticism about the revised penalties from Alabama referees about the penalty changes.

In giving their opinion about the revised changes to the penalties for players receiving yellow and red cards, the following are some of the statements that were expressed:

1 “The penalty for yellow cards was too harsh under the old system, so I often refrained from giving out a yellow card.”

2 “Giving out a red card means that I will have to take the time to submit a report that will be sent to the school principal, who may then penalize the whole team. It makes me now reconsider if a red card is really necessary.”

3 “Recently, the overtime period for a tie game was changed from two ten-minute regular time and two five-minute sudden victory overtime periods to two ten-minute sudden victory overtime periods. This decrease in game time could have had an effect on the number of cards awarded per game.”

4 “If officials would have turned in game reports for all the games played, the results might have been different.”

5 “The changes were good, because schools do a good job in taking action against players who are ejected from games”

What are your feelings concerning player eligibility penalties for red and/ or yellow cards? Please let this writer know. E-mail: Joeman@USSA-SPORT.USSA.edu

Editor’s Comments: Dr. Joe Manjone is the Alabama State High School Association Soccer rules interpreter. He is also the region V soccer officials’ representative for the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials’ Association. He is a National High School soccer clinician, and has been officiating high school soccer since 1959.