Though the FA announced Mario Balotelli's one-match ban and £25k fine late last week, it took until today for English football's governing body to release details of the reasoning behind the punishment. Some had felt that given Balotelli's personal history with racism and a belief that his posting of an image with a racist caption on Instagram was a naive mistake, a warning would have been enough.
The FA, though, believed that regardless of intent, there is "an expectation of a sporting sanction" for any player posting potentially offensive items on social media, and they chose the minimum sanction available to them ouf of a belief that Balotelli had not acted with malice. They further clarified that the educational course Balotelli has been mandate to undertake would be personalised, "properly recognising his background."
For an offence such as Balotelli's, a two to three match ban and a larger fine would normally be called for. Believing Balotelli to be sincere in his apology as well as his claims he had naively posted the image in an attempt to make a statement against racism, plus taking into consideration the player's own history on the receiving end of racial abuse and his quick withdrawal of the image, led to a reduced punishment.
"Mr Balotelli said he deeply regretted posting the image and that he had removed it as soon as it was brought to his attention by other users that the image could cause offence," read the official reasons in the FA report on the incident and ruling. "He said he was shocked to find the image was offensive because, out of sheer naivety, he had not understood the implication of the comments which appeared on the image.
"Mr Balotelli also said that he had mistakenly believed that the image contained a lighthearted and anti-racist message. In his letter [to the FA committee], Mr Balotelli also said that he had suffered from racism on a great number of occasions. He added that he is of Ghanaian heritage and that his maternal grandmother was Jewish and had escaped Nazi Germany."
The FA's ruling further noted his cooperation with the FA enquiry as a factor in delivering a lenient punishment, as well as acknowledging that on the most superficial level the image posted by Balotelli might be seen to be attempting to make a statement against racism. The report concluded by noting the expectation of punishment for an offence of this kind, regardless of intent.