Discussion on Red/Yellow Cards


Years ago (2004), I suggested using cards like in soccer to deal with the problem of overly aggressive robots. It was adopted back then, and has been used since to warn and punish teams for acting unsafely, ungraciously, or unfairly. When I rejoined the team I’ve seen how far the use of cards has expanded and in some cases where it seems to not fit well to create fair competition.

The 1678 triple climb potential double yellow and some comments made about wanting to redesign the rules relating to cards prompted me, and I’d like to start the discussion for what changes could be made. Originally, the card rules were introduced at IRI and so if we had some reasonable ideas, that maybe an off-season event would like to trial them.

How would you change rules that are yellow/red card rules?

edit: Throwback to the original red/yellow card thread: [moderated] You write <G34> and <G35>

Are all teams treated equally? and Roebling SF 2-3

So quick question- when the rules say that the first violation is a ‘warning’ before a yellow card (ie for carrying more than one game piece or something) what exactly does that mean? Is it just a regular foul, and then the refs talk to the drive team to warn them about a potential yellow card, or is it something else that I’ve just missed?


With the discussions on a lot of threads recently, I think the idea of the Red and Yellow card system is a good idea, it is just that the execution of it is flawed. With this year, consistency was an issue where Refs would call rule violations a lot more firmer than other districts. Now everyone is different and I understand that but FIRST should make the visual process on when a Ref should call a violation be more clear and concise rather than leaving a lot up to the Head Refs/Refs discretion. Thats really just my two cents on the matter and I still LOVE all the volunteers that spend countless hours trying to give us the best experience possible. Mistakes are going to happen and we can only hope to learn from them in the future. I don’t mean to attack anyone at FIRST or the volunteers, I love them ALL :slight_smile:.


The ‘verbal warning’ are mostly for acts like stepping over guardrails or entering the field too early or working outside your pit or enablingmoving robot during measurements. They come before the Yellow Card, which is a warning. It probably is up to the person who gave the warning to remember the violation and if it happens again to call for a Yellow Card. It is likely hard to recall/enforce issue. Stated below they keep track of verbal warnings given to teams. This is likely a case where a yellow card for a warning (which is what it should be) is too fast an escalation.

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I think a general rule of thumb for yellow/red card fouls is that it should not be possible for such a foul to occur during ordinary match play.

G20 violations this season have frequently occurred during collisions between robots. This can occur during ordinary match play, so this rule would not pass this litmus test.

The hab height violation is more difficult to argue against. I have an issue with a rule where an extra inch of motion can lead to yellow cards, especially when such motion is difficult to judge. I think it’s a dumb rule that needs to have more emphasis on “blatant” violations than minor ones such as what we saw with 1678, but I can’t think a good way of defining a rule for this.

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I think the system was something easy to understand. However, the escalation of penalties is sometimes too extreme.

Say instead we had a system where, different violations had a wider range of penalty which was better defined. My made up just this second system would involve giving teams “sad Woodie Flower” faces when they violated rules. And 5 of them would be equivalent to a DQ. Stepping over a guardrail would be one Sad Woodie versus a clear yellow card violation would be 2-3 Sad Woodies.

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Agreed on that. It is a simple concept that should have worked but doesn’t in reality. It’s demoralizing on both sides when an alliance is eliminated because of a red card during a match.


In general I like the system but often it’s added to rules that should, imo, be penalized with fouls instead. Cards should be reserved for overly aggressive/dangerous driving (bashing other robots inside their frame, shooting things out of the field repeatedly, etc…) and ungracious strategic play (ignoring timeout limits, asking teams to tank match, tanking a match, etc…)

As for safety issues that currently give the whole team cards, I feel that those issues should either be designed out of the game (don’t want robots falling off the hab zone into the driver station? Don’t put it there or raise the driver station wall) or should be dealt with the specific person (1 or 2 warnings, then that student/adult is barred from the field).


In m humble opinion, there is a place for some kind of card system to punish egregiously bad behavior. But I think that system has been abused to now punish smaller offenses to the point where small mistakes in the heat of competition can ruin a team’s event.

I think a major overhaul of what fouls give cards is in order. And head ref training should specify that cards are only for egregious penalties, not for small infringements. But the easiest and most helpful rule that can be added in my opinion is that a team shouldn’t be able to earn two yellow cards in the same match. This especially if both cards are for the same rule violation. The point of the yellow card is as a warning; like a police officer saying “this time we’ll let you go, but next time you’ll get a ticket.” If the team gets two yellow cards before they get a chance to be warned, the purpose is defeated. This would solve a lot of problems we’ve seen with yellow cards, including climbing off the airship in 2017, blockading at Chezy Champs last year, and (some of) G20 and double climbs over the alliance wall this year.


Ok thank you! I wasn’t sure if it was an official thing or not. Thanks for clearing that up!


What if cards were only issued for actions during ordinary play against the other alliance? That would keep the G20 violation, but lessen the penalty on the HAB climb.


Agreed, If a ref believes a team/alliance has demonstrated behavior egregious enough to merit instant disqualification then that’s what a Red card is for, not two simultaneous Yellow cards.


I like these quotes


The head ref has a chart to track which teams have received warnings for these sorts of rules (I expect other refs would work with the head ref to keep it updated as necessary).


I agree with this post 100%.

What I keep coming back to is yellow/red cards in soccer. Players get cards for aggressive and bad behavior (harming opponents, illegal slide tackles, etc).

I’ve never understood how FIRST thinks the same sort of nomenclature and punishment is appropriate for things like accidentally flinging a hatch panel or raising 2" above an imaginary ceiling that the ref’s can’t actually accurately evaluate from their viewing angle.

I agree with the following as well:

The “no double yellow” rule is a fantastic addition as well. I am having flashbacks to the double yellow card in Australia in 2017.



I think part of the problem is the yellow is decided after the match concludes. I like that the yellow is carried with the team through elimination.

I would be in favor of clearing yellow cards at the end of the day in qualifiers, or after a set number of matches. Getting a yellow early on in the event can ruin a team’s quals.


Red/yellow cards should be reserved for safety or egregious violations.

For example, being late to the field should start with a foul, progress to a technical. Only become disable or yellow flag when the team just ignores the time and field people. This would encourage teams to be on time. Let the referees call the penalty without it being the match decider. (You can win a 2 vs 3, but the odds have to be in your favor.)


I don’t see how this is a problem. If at the end of a match the head ref decides that a team committed two offenses that warrant yellow cards* then they only get one yellow card for that match. The team gets a warning from the head ref not to do it again after the match is over. If they commit the same offense in another match they can get a red card, but they’ve already been warned. If you also want to clear cards at EOD I’d be fine with that too.

* which already should be harder to do if yellow cards are only given out for serious infractions instead of small things


Yes, problem with the current system. Not a problem with the proposed fix.


Deliberate or damaging contact inside the Frame Perimeter should never occur during ordinary match play.

As a more general comment, “minor” or “unintentional” violations of rules such as G20 can impact the ‘victim’ teams’ entire event as well. Even if the moment of damage itself seems insignificant or non-consequential at the time, it can lead to lasting and hard/impossible to repair damage. Since the victimized robot may have to carry this consequence through the rest of the event, it can, from their perspective, seem unfair if the offending robot has no lasting consequence – if they seem to “get away” with an ultimately insignificant yellow card. A sufficiently damaged mechanism may not be possible to repair and play around in the same way that a yellow card can be played around, and a damaged mechanism certainly doesn’t clear before eliminations in the same way that a yellow card does. This is also true for rules other than G20.

It’s important to remember that there are two equally important teams of students on both sides of every card that is given out. Swing the pendulum of enforcement too far to one side or the other and at least one team will feel slighted. Some of the current rules probably swing too far one way, and others too far the other way. Even with every rule and their enforcement being perfectly “fair”, both sides could walk away from the same interaction unsatisfied. This is a very hard balance to strike in any sport, and finding the correct balance will probably take more careful thought than a CD thread could provide. At least in FRC, unlike most other sports, teams are generally GP enough to admit when they were the beneficiary of a win via an unjust red card, 3v2, or similar situation, and commiserate with the other alliance.