EPL vs LaLiga: Comparing the Leagues by Yellow Cards - The Evesham Observer

EPL vs LaLiga: Comparing the Leagues by Yellow Cards

Evesham Editorial 26th Mar, 2024   0

Most football aficionados would agree that the English Premier League is the gold standard of football leagues. However, many would argue that leagues like LaLiga are just as good in terms of the quality of teams and the on-field product. Both leagues have long and colourful histories laden with uber-talented characters. While the EPL has only been around since 1992, it does date back to 1888 when it was known simply as the Football League. Meanwhile, LaLiga was founded in 1929.

So, what are some of the key differences between the two leagues? Well, let’s just start by saying that the EPL has a much larger fan base. EPL is also more popular for sports bettors. If you visit a top online bookmaker, an EPL match can serve up over a thousand unique betting options. If you check the Spanish La Liga odds and betting selections, you won’t find quite as many.

Another difference is the number of yellow cards that referees hand out. For those who don’t know, a yellow card is a type of penalty that players and coaches can receive for poor conduct like unsportsmanlike behaviour, wasting time, or arguing with a referee. However, a yellow card is akin to a warning. If the player receives a second yellow card in the same game, he will receive a red card which means that the player is no longer eligible to play in that match and, possibly, subsequent matches. Furthermore, the offending player’s team cannot send in a sub for the dismissed player meaning the team plays short-handed for the rest of the match.

Yellow Cards in the EPL

As of this writing, EPL teams were about 27 games into their 38-game 2023-24 schedules. In other words, the league has played about 540 matches so far. In those 540 games, referees have issued a total of 1,167 yellow cards. That comes out to an average of 2.16 yellow cards per team per game, or a combined total of a tad under 4.5 yellow cards per game. This represents an all-time high for the EPL.

In 2020-21, referees handed out an average of 2.88 yellow cards per game. Since then the numbers have risen to 3.42 in 2021-22 and 3.62 in 2022-23. Does this noticeable increase mean that EPL players are getting dirtier, lippier, and more reckless? Well, it turns out that while tactical and reckless fouls are most common, time-wasters have been seeing yellow cards rain down on them like never before. Yellow cards for time delays are up 135% from just last year.

Interestingly enough, Off-the-ball yellow cards are up a staggering 296% while dissenters have received 218% more yellows.

Yellow Cards in LaLiga

As it is in the EPL, LaLiga teams are about 27 games into their 2023-24 season. In those approximately 540 matches, referees have dished out 1,270 yellow cards. That’s 103 or about 2% more yellow cards than their EPL counterparts. Funny enough, Getafe has already eclipsed the 100-yellow card mark which is 20 more than Mallorca which sits in second in that category. Getafe also happens to hold a significant lead in the red card category.

If we go back to 2020-21, LaLiga refs issued a total of 1,675 yellow cards in 760 regular season games. That adds up to about 4.4 yellow cards each game. While that’s 0.15% below today’s average, the difference is minimal.


The number of yellow cards being handed out in the EPL is at an all-time high. It would appear as though the league has tasked referees with paying special attention to certain areas of enforcement. And the refs are doing just that by calling those particular penalties at unprecedented rates.

Meanwhile, LaLiga referees haven’t changed their approach. They continue to bring out the yellow and reds at the same rate and for the same reasons they have for the past several years. It’s true that LaLiga refs are sometimes asked to focus on specific areas. This happens in all major sports. Still, those blitzes don’t seem to have much of an impact on the overall numbers.

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