Issue number 415 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post ranks 76 leagues worldwide according to the number of cards per match handed out by referees since 1 January 2020. Bolivia’s Primera División tops the list (7.01 cards per game, including 0.55 reds), while Japan’s J2 League is at the opposite end of the spectrum (1.99 cards per match, including 0.05 reds).
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Raffaele Poli
Roger Besson
Loïc Ravenel
Thomas Gonzalez

Seven Latin American leagues rank in the top ten in terms of total number of penalty cards, the only exceptions being Portugal’s Primeira and Segunda Liga, as well as the Ukrainian Premier League. The dominance is even greater in terms of red cards, with nine Latin American leagues in the top nine positions with Russia’s Premier League ranking 10th.

At the bottom of the table, Japan’s top two divisions are ahead of the top two Dutch leagues, the Norwegian Eliteserien and the English Premier League. The English Championship, League One and League Two are also at the bottom of the table, confirming the low propensity of referees across the Channel to issue penalty cards.

Average number of cards handed out by referees per match

Domestic league matches played between 01/01/2020 and 20/03/2023