Football Matches with Most Red Cards


Posted: September 19, 2020

Updated: September 19, 2020

  • Most red cards in football history were showed in South America
  • Both times 36 red cards were issued
  • 6 players were sent off in a Barcelona vs Espanyol derby in 2003

In the last PSG-Marseille game the referee showed five red cards at the end of the match for both teams’ players including Neymar. It was a strong decision but it wasn’t the only case when several players were sent off. In football matches with most red cards the tension got too intense and the referees couldn’t control it at all. 

Fans can watch probably the most intense games in South America, where at least one red card is almost the part of the game. With long rivalries and previous incidents, players can get violent easily and start to fight with their opponents. Of course, there are other countries in the world where this kind of behavior can happen easily, like Spain or Turkey. Even the biggest stars can lose it sometimes, especially when they play in an important game such as one in a big tournament. Well, let’s see some examples of these violent games from various times and countries. 

We find football matches with most red cards in South America

Let’s start with a game which still holds the world record for red card distribution. It was a game in the fifth tier of Argentine football, where two big rivals, Claypole and Victoriano Arenas played against each other. In the first half of the match the referee gave only two red cards.  But in the second half it all went to hell and a big brawl started between the players. Even the managers and coaches entered the pitch. The referee, Damian Rubino didn’t see any other option than giving a red card to everyone which meant 36 people at the end. 

But it wasn’t the only match with similar results. As 36 red cards were given in a Paraguayan youth game in 2012 too. The antecedents were the same. First two players were sent off, then a big fight and brawl erupted involving both teams. The referee and his assistants left the scene and just showed a red card to everyone. Staying in the country, in another Paraguayan youth game in 1993 a similar scenario could be witnessed. 20 red cards was the result when players started to fight for about 10 minutes following the dismissal of two players. It all ended with 18 additional players being sent off. 

football matches with most red cards
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Spanish teams can lose their temper as well

Back to Europe, we find football matches with most red cards in Spain. In the Spanish lower league in 2009 in a game between Recreativo Linense and Saladillo De Algeciras 19 players were sent off. Again everything started with one red card.  Then players started to fight, during which the referee went into his locker room. Later he issued nine players in each team with a red card. According to one of the coaches it was all overblown as most players just tried to calm down their teammates and didn’t fight at all. 

But fans could see several red cards in a much more important La Liga game as well between local rivals FC Barcelona and Espanyol in 2003. The two teams and their fans hate each other for a very long time. So it wasn’t a surprise that emotions got heated. 3 players on each side were sent off  which is still the record in La Liga. The game ended with a 3-1 Barcelona win with the goals of Patrick Kluivert and Ronaldinho. Barca fans would love to see a similar result again this season. Online sportsbooks in Spain favor Real Madrid to win the title with the odds of 1.80 while Barcelona have the odds of 2.50. 

The most violent game in the world cup

Red cards can be given in a world cup game just as well. As it happened in the Portugal vs Netherlands tie in the last 16 in the 2006 World Cup. Both teams played in a very tough way with hard tackles resulting with 2 red cards in each team. The game known the Battle of Nuremberg holds the record of most red cards in a world cup game. After the game then FIFA president Sepp Blatter criticized the Russian referee for his poor performance. While sent off Deco and Van Bronckhorst, teammates at Barcelona peacefully talked together in the tunnel after their dismissals. 

football matches with most red cards
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Games with several red cards from England

The record for most red cards in England were reached in two different games in 1997. In the first one Chesterfield hosted Plymouth Argyle in a third-tier game.  A player from the guests was sent off for a bad challenge in the 36th minute. Even though they were a man down, Argyle managed to score and lead 2-0.  But in the last minute their goalkeeper got injured, enraging the Argyle players. It all went to a brawl, with even fans entering the pitch. At the end four more players got a red card in the Battle of Saltergate. 

The other record holder game is the Bristol Rovers vs Wigan Athletic League 1 match from the same year. Unlike most listed games, here most action happened already in the first half when violence erupted in the injury time. Three Rovers and one Wigan player didn’t have to return for the second half. A fifth player, Rovers midfielder Josh Low got his second yellow card in the 71st minute. Amazingly the home side could still win the game 3-0, finishing with only 7 players. To bet on all English games just visit bet365 and read our latest review on bet365 sportsbook for more information. 

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