Elsewhere on this site you can read about how often players are sent off in football matches. Though not Premier League specific, it does take a look at the manner in which red cards occur in the English top-flight alongside other divisions from around Europe. Red cards can have a huge impact on a football match, especially in the likes of the Premier League, where even the bottom team can get a result against the team at the top if the conditions fall their way. If a superior team is reduced to ten men, it isn’t uncommon for sides to struggle to cope without their full contingent.
The question, then, becomes about which teams have seen the most red cards during the course of a season. This will tell us how often the’ve been under pressure. One might assume that the teams struggling at the bottom of the table are the most likely to see red cards, with effort spilling over into aggression, but it would also just be that some teams are more aggressive than others. Another thing that that is worth considering is how many red cards tend to be issued to teams during the course of a season, which will tell us how many is a ‘high number’ the rest of the time.
Quick Answer: Which Premier League Club Has Had the Most Red Cards in a Season?
Since the first Premier League campaign in 1992-93, the most cards received by a club in a single season was nine. This record was set by Sunderland in 2009-10 and was matched by Queens Park Rangers in 2011-12.
Across all Premier League seasons Everton have had the most reds with 106. They are followed by Arsenal with 102, Newcastle with 92, Chelsea with 85 and West Ham with 80.
The Most Reds Cards by Season
First things first, then and a look at the teams which have been shown the most red cards in each Premier League season. The table below shows the teams with the most red cards shown across each Premier League campaign since the launch of the division in 1992:
Most Red Cards in Each Premier League Season
|Season||Most Red Cards|
|2022-2023||Wolverhampton Wanderers (6)|
|2020-2021||Brighton & Hove Albion (6)|
|2018-2019||Leicester City (5)|
|2017-2018||Leicester City (5)|
|2016-2017||Hull City (5)|
|West Ham United (5)|
|2014-2015||Aston Villa (7)|
|Newcastle United (7)|
|2011-2012||Queens Park Rangers (9)|
|2010-2011||West Bromwich Albion (7)|
|2008-2009||Newcastle United (8)|
|2007-2008||Blackburn Rovers (6)|
|2006-2007||Blackburn Rovers (6)|
|2005-2006||Birmingham City (7)|
|2003-2004||Leicester City (7)|
|2001-2002||Bolton Wanderers (7)|
|1999-2000||West Ham United (8)|
|1998-1999||Blackburn Rovers (8)|
|1997-1998||Blackburn Rovers (5)|
|Bolton Wanderers (5)|
|Coventry City (5)|
|Leeds United (5)|
|West Ham United (5)|
|Coventry City (5)|
|1994-1995||Leicester City (8)|
|1993-1994||Oldham Athletic (4)|
|Sheffield United (4)|
You can see, then, that six red cards is roughli about average for the most reds during the course of a Premier League campaign. When it comes to the specific teams that have racked up the most, here is a look at the clubs receiving the most in a single season, complete with the finishing position of the team in that season:
* This was when there were 22 teams in the Premier League
The interesting thing about the chart above is that neither of the teams that were shown the most red cards ever in a Premier League season, Sunderland in 2009-2010 and Queens Park Rangers in 2011-2012, were relegated at the end of the campaign.
Overall, of the 19 teams with the most red cards in a season, only five finished in the bottom three, or the bottom four in 1994-95, indicating that red cards don’t necessarily mean that a team is having a disastrous year.
The highest placed team here was Arsenal who finished 2nd in 1998-99 despite their seven red cards. That wasn’t the most by a club that season, Blackburn down in 19th had eight red cards.
All-Time Most Red Cards
Having looked at which team has been shown the most red cards in a single season, with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers sharing the honour with nine apiece, it is worth having a look at which side has been shown the most red cards since the Premier League was launched in 1992. This information goes up to the end of the 2022-2023 campaign, with the following being the top-five all-time worst offenders:
The worst offenders are Everton, thanks to their 106 red cards to date. This isn’t all that surprising, considering the fact that the Blue team from Merseyside has consistently been fighting relegation over the course of the Premier League’s existence. What is slightly more surprising is the fact that the team in second place, with 102 red cards, is Arsenal. The surprise comes in the fact that the Gunners have regularly been competing for the title and the top-four battle during their time in the Premier League, which suggests that it isn’t about where a team finishes but how aggressive they tend to be when it comes to red cards.
Famous Red Cards
Now that we know both which sides have seen the most red cards in a single season as well as Everton being the worst offenders during the course of the Premier League’s existence, it is worth taking a quick look at a couple of famous stories around red cards being issued since the division was launched:
Kieran Dyer & Lee Bowyer (Newcastle United)
It is not uncommon for two players to be sent off for clashing during a Premier League season. It is far less common for the clash to come between two players on the same team. In 2005, however, Newcastle were playing Aston Villa in a home match when Steven Taylor was sent off. It means that the away side was dominant, but it was trouble within the Magpies team that ultimately decided the match. Lee Bowyer felt that his teammate wasn’t performing to the best of his ability, charging at Kieran Dyer, who lashed out. The ref sent both men off and the home side lost 3-0.
Joey Barton (Queens Park Rangers)
Joey Barton is not a player filled with innocence, so it isn’t a surprise that he makes this list. It isn’t the fact that he was sent off that is noteworthy, however, so much as what the sending off meant for the Premier League title. Manchester City had a better goal difference than Manchester United heading into the final day of the season, so they just needed to match their rival’s result. United won but City were losing even after Barton had been sent off for Queens Park Rangers, the team City were playing. Eventually, the extra man showed and City scored two goals in stoppage time to steal the title from United’s grasp.
Eric Cantona (Manchester United)
Just as with Joey Barton, it wasn’t the sending off itself that made the headlines. It came in January of 1995, with the Frenchman kicking Crystal Palace’s Richard Shaw after the defender had frustrated him all match. The referee sent him off and as he was walking off the pitch he stopped and launched a ‘kung-fu’ style kick at someone in the crowd. He followed the kick up with a series of punches and was later banned for eight months by the Football Association, in addition to a series of fines and some time spent doing community service for the assault.