After 11 games, it is interesting to note that discipline records are very good at the 2018 World Cup. Is that due to VAR or the referees leniency with regards to the rules on yellow and red cards?
If we look at the numbers and compare them to previous tournaments between 1998 and 2014, there is a sharp drop in the number of cautions and sending-offs.
Obviously, there have been only eleven games played so far (at the time of writing), but there seems to be a real trend developing.
Funnily enough, the numbers you find on FIFA.com and those on Wikipedia are different so I have included both of them as per below:
2014 Yellow Cards per game 2.8 Red Cards per game 0.2 (FIFA) 2.92 /0.16 (Wiki)
2010 YC 4.2 RC 0.3 (FIFA) 4.08 / 0.27 (Wiki)
2006 YC 5.7 RC 0.4 (FIFA) 5.39 / 0.44 (Wiki)
2002 YC 4.3 RC 0.3 (FIFA) 4.25 / 0.27 (Wiki)
1998 YC 4.1 RC 0.3 (FIFA) 4.03 / 0.34 (Wiki)
As of the end of Sunday’s matches: Yellow Cards per game 2.90 Red Cards per game 0
The average number of yellow cards in 2018 is similar to the 2014 and the average actually went up by 0.4 on Sunday, but the number of red card is still a 0 at the moment.
There are a number of reasons for the lower number of bookings and red cards.
Referees are being lenient
There have been many actions during games where a booking should have been issued according to Law 12, but it looks like referees have been told not to spoil the game.
Modified player behaviour
We are still seeing the same physical defending, with heavy kicking and fouling. But we don’t seem to be seeing any over-the-top, two-footed or out of control tackling.
There has also been no aggro, so far, with pushing and shoving, general melees and fights almost completely absent.
VAR is certainly a deterrent because players know they will be caught on video and the referee will be able to see it.
It’s the same for the off-the-ball action.
Before, the referee could not see what was happening behind his back. Now, someone can check it for him and let him know.
VAR is a welcome addition because players won’t be able to get away with anything like that from now on and that is good news.
If players can behave themselves, it will allow attacking football to flourish resulting in more entertainment for fans.
No-one watches football just to see players kick each other and everyone wants to see the best footballers able to showcase their talents.