The PFA today called for FFA to review its yellow card regulations for Version 4 of the A-League to reflect the relatively short A-League season. If implemented, the changes will also see players with outstanding disciplinary records free to play in the A-League Grand Final even if they incur 2 yellow cards in the Finals Series.

Currently, a player who accumulates the following number of yellow cards during the course of the regular season has to serve these respective mandatory match suspensions:

4 cautions 1 match suspension
7 cautions 2 match suspension
10 cautions 3 match suspension

In comparison with 12–20 team leagues, the A-League regular season is short, with each team only playing 21 matches. As a consequence, matches missed by players have a greater impact on both the club and the player involved than in the traditional European 34–38 match seasons. For example, a one-match suspension out of 21 matches is roughly equivalent to a two-match suspension in a 38 match season.

The PFA proposes to increase the number of cautions for a one-match suspension from 4 cautions to 5 cautions. Consequentially, the prescribed number of cautions to incur a two match suspension should be increased to 8, with the three-match suspension remaining at 10 cautions.

5 cautions 1 match suspension
8 cautions 2 match suspension
10 cautions 3 match suspension

For the Final Series, players who accumulate two yellow cards during the Final Series must currently serve a mandatory one match suspension. This creates an unfair disadvantage for clubs who are required to play more matches in order to qualify for the latter stages of the competition as their players would be at risk of accumulating additional cautions.

In past seasons, key players have been suspended from crucial matches including Grand Finals in the 2006 (Mark Milligan – Sydney FC) and 2007 (Matthew Kemp – Adelaide United). These players were denied the opportunity to feature in the domestic game’s showcase event, which would be a career highlight for any A-League player.

The PFA proposes that a one match suspension being imposed only after the accumulation of three cautions in three separate matches. Alternatively, it is possible to allow all players who have accrued five cautions or less during the regular season, to be on a three caution rule for the Finals Series. Such an amendment would reward players with exemplary disciplinary records and promote fair play.

For example, if such a player accumulates two cautions from his club’s first two matches in the Finals Series, instead of receiving an automatic suspension, he would be issued with a warning to his future conduct. However, should he receive a third caution in the Finals Series, he would be suspended for the next match.

The English Premier League imposes a similar provision, where if a player accumulates five cautions from the start of the season in August until after February, he is only subject to a warning pertaining to his on-field conduct.

PFA Chief Executive Brendan Schwab said, “The proposed amendments aim to create a fairer system of imposing match suspensions, therefore giving clubs a greater opportunity to field their best players in a Grand Final or Preliminary Final.”

“The PFA is also working on a detailed submission on amendments to the current National Disciplinary Regulations, which have been in force since 1 January 2007. This submission shall be finalised and submitted to FFA by the end of April 2008.”