So far in League One this season there has been a total of 1413 Yellow cards and 44 Red cards shown to players. However the invention of the Red and Yellow cards is a fairly recent one.

The earliest rules for Football came from Cambridge University where the game in various forms had been enjoyed for centuries. Although Cambridge is a small university town each college had its own set of rules when it came to Football so in 1848 a set of Cambridge Rules were created.

Most of the rules then are the same today including that the game is kicked off in the centre circle and that a goal can only be scored when the ball is kicked between the flag posts and below the string. The rules also stated ‘In no case is holding a player, pushing with the hands, or tripping up allowed.’ However nothing was said about what happened if you broke these rules. The game at this time was still heavily connected to rugby and the rules did allow players to catch the ball with their hands but they were not allowed to run with it.

In 1858 Sheffield Football Club set their own rules which would later form the basis of the Football League laws of the game. On fouling the rules were very similar to that of Cambridge except tripping and hacking were allowed.

The introduction of a referee was a controversial move in the early years of Football as the game moved away from the pursuit of gentlemen and became the working man’s game. Lines men had always existed in the game but the referee had not as it was believed that gentlemen would not break the rules. However as some players did the need for a referee increased much to the dismay of the gentlemen players.

With the introduction of referees the game saw players being sent from the field for breaking the rules. However it was still fairly uncommon for a player to be sent back to the dressing room.

At Prenton Park in 1935 there was one such occasion against Chester where two players were sent back to the dressing room. Tranmere were the better side in this local derby and when Burke for Chester fumbled a save, Bell attacked the ball which led to a Tranmere goal. However Chester were not going down without a fight…..literally.

The Chester players quickly surrounded the referee and soon too the Tranmere players but the referee saw the Chester side of events and ruled the goal disallowed as Bell must have fouled Burke the keeper.

In anger the two sides locked heads and a fight broke out which the Birkenhead News described as a ‘…hopeless mix up, with a crowd of players hacking at one another, using their elbows and jostling one another in a most unseemly way.’

No one was hurt but the crowd as the Birkenhead News stated ‘… were amazed at the spleen shown by players on both sides, and one will wait a long time before seeing such a hectic pitched battle as that in the first half.’
The referee sent Woodward for Tranmere and Howarth for Chester back to the dressing rooms for the violence shown on the pitch. The game did however finish 3-1 to Tranmere.

When the players were sent off in the 1935 game the referee simply signalled the offending players back to the dressing room without the aid of a red card. In the wider game however spectators and players were getting confused as to what signals the referee was sending out as to whether they were being sent off.

This confusion led to the introduction of the Red and Yellow cards in the 1960s but Tranmere had to wait sometime before one was used at Prenton Park.

Steve Peplow holds the achievement of being the first Tranmere player to be shown a Red card. During an away game at Shrewsbury Peplow was booked in the first half for decent and in the second half for handling the ball. The two offences both received Yellow cards with the second being turned into a red. The game finished 2-2.

The Yellow and even the Red card are a common part of in today’s game and one has to wonder how the founders of the Football Association would feel about gentlemen cheating in what they designed as a fair game testing skills and tactics not acrobatics and aggression.