New Member
Level 7 Referee
Hi, I am going to be refereeing in youth football next season, probably varying from under 9s to under 16s. I was wondering about how others use cards in these types of games. For example an under 10 player shouts dissent at me. Do I caution him like I would if they were older or do I speak to a manager or do I ignore it. Another example is I did an academy game. Colchester vs Leyton Orient under 11s, one player made 2 poor tackles where both would’ve been yellows if they were older. I don’t want to sound weird here and I’m struggling to explain my question. How should I go about managing these youth games and at what ages do you start officiating the games like it’s a normal men’s game. Should I give out the cards? Should I speak to the managers? What are your thoughts?
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Kent Ref

RefChat Addict
It depends on whether you see yourself as an official or an educator.

The sin bin is the best way to teach youth players about dissent IMHO though.

You are the referee so don't be influenced by managers or by the biased set-up in academies.

A lot of card situations have a gut feeling to them. Go with this instinct and you wont go far wrong.


I'll Decide ...
Level 5 Referee
Referee what is in front of you and deal with the players as per the LOTG mate, irrespective of their age.
Once you blow that whistle to start the match, it's you who is in charge, not them or their coaches ... 😉🙂


RefChat Addict
any time I take to the pitch, a red is a red.
There might be allowance for dogso on small pitches 9v9

Full sized games 11v 11 its as per the lotg and how you choose to interpret then to help you best manage the game

you say quote " both would have been yellows if they were older"

if you quickly refresh your knowledge of the good book, it tells you clearly what can be adapted for ages.
You now have your answer


Premium Member
Premium Member
Level 6 Referee
With youth I have a lower threshold for dissent and bad language. I am happy to explain decisions, but if they misbehave, they have to learn consequences.

LOTG remain the same, however I will sometimes give the benefit of the doubt, as the standard is often quite low (unless you’re doing academy games).

If you don’t apply the laws properly at youth level, they’ll never learn for when they are older.

socal lurker

RefChat Addict
It's definitely an interesting question about line drawing. Some leagues at the recreational level won't use cards below a certain age,and the reality is that cards are very rarely needed at, say, 10U or younger even where they are used. (In the US, AYSO makes up a large part of the younger age groups and does not like cards shown at the young levels, but cautions and send offs are still used in the rare cases they are appropriate, there is just no publicly shown card used to communicate the caution or send off.)

A couple of other thoughts:
  • Keep in mind the size and speed of the players when evaluating what reckless is. Things that are merely clumsy and careless when a 10 year old does them may be reckless when a 200 lb adult does them, as the speed and force is much lower (ya know, that physics thing, mass and speed* matter)
  • Keep in mind skill level when evaluating SPA and DOGSO. What is a promising attack for skilled players can be pretty ho hum for low level youth players
  • With young players, you don't need to look for cards--the ones that need to be given will jump out and grab you

*Yes, yes, technically acceleration,not speed (F+MA); but in a collision the speed impacts the negative acceleration . . .
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RefChat Addict
Level 5 Referee
Incidentally there is a world of difference between U9 and U16. U9 is the easiest refereeing you'll ever do in terms of match control (my son plays U9 and I do his games occasionally). U16 is just about peak gobbiness - worse than adult football in many cases.


Well-Known Member
Level 6 Referee
I also find they are quite petulant about some things for instance if they get tackled and they believe its a foul but the ref doesn't think so and waves it off, you KNOW their next action is revenge. Easy yellow card.