The FA today handed down their ruling on Mario Balotelli's controversial Instagram, banning the striker for one match and fining him £25,000, as well as ordering the 24-year-old to attend a racial sensitivity education course.
While most considered his sharing of the image, referencing Nintendo's Super Mario, to be naive and unfortunate, given the striker's past experiences on the receiving end of racist culture in Italy and elsewhere few believed it had been posted with malicious intent.
As a result, there will be some disappointment that the FA chose to fine and punish Balotelli rather than simply issuing a warning. Balotelli may appeal the decision if he wishes, and Liverpool have stated that such an appeal is under consideration.
The image, lifted from the Twitter feed of UK sports and frat culture site The Lad Bible, noted that Super Mario was an Italian plumber created by Japanese people who speaks English and looks Mexican. Though the original goal of the image appeared to be to promote tolerance, at some stage, the passage "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew" had been added to it.
If the club and player decide not to, the striker will miss the Arsenal match on Sunday, a game which he is currently doubtful for due to a persistent groin injury suffered in trianing while on international duty.
In full, the FA ruling reads:
Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today [Thursday 18 December 2014], Mario Balotelli has been fined £25,000, suspended for one-match with immediate effect, subject to any appeal, and warned as to his future conduct after he admitted breaching FA Rules in relation to social media.
The charge was that an image the Liverpool player posted on social media was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3(1). Furthermore, the posting was considered to be an "Aggravated Breach" as defined in FA Rule E3(2) in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief.
Mr Balotelli has also been ordered to attend an education programme.
Update: Balotelli has confirmed that he will not challenge the FA's ruling and as a result will sit out this Sunday's match against Arsenal.