Mario Balotelli faces prospect of nine-game ban
Mario Balotelli will find out today if he faces a potential nine-game ban – a decision dependent on whether or not the referee Martin Atkinson tells the Football Association he saw the Manchester City striker stamp on Alex Song in Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Arsenal.
Atkinson will be contacted today by the FA and asked whether he had sight of the stamp, which took place in the 90th minute of the game, for which the referee did not even give a foul. If Atkinson says that he did not see the incident, and confirms that had he done so he would have sent off Balotelli, the FA will act retrospectively.
Balotelli, 22, is already facing a three-match ban for his red card at the end of the game, which was given for two bookable offences. He gets one game for the card itself and a further two because it is effectively his third red card of the season. Should Balotelli be charged with violent conduct for the stamp on Song, the Italian would be in the unusual position of having, in effect, been sent off twice in the same game. He would get the statutory three-match ban for a straight red card and then a further three-game ban for it being, in effect, his fourth red card of the season.
In all it would mean that Balotelli would be banned for nine games, ruling him out of the last six Premier League matches of this season and the first three of next season. Those three would only be effective if he was still at City next season, with Roberto Mancini having raised doubts about his future at the club on Sunday.
At the time of the stamp on Song, it is understood that neither Atkinson; Peter Kirkup, his assistant on that side of the pitch, or Andre Marriner, the fourth official who was close by, saw the incident. Atkinson allowed play to go on, stopping it eventually for treatment to Song.
However, Atkinson could say that he saw the incident but did not realise its severity. In which case, the FA, which is bound by Fifa rules that limit the opportunities for retrospective refereeing of games, would have to conclude that the incident was dealt with at the time. Then, Balotelli would not face the supplementary six-game ban.
Yesterday Balotelli apologised for his actions and said that he would await talks with the club at the end of the season to discuss his future. Speaking to Italian news agency Ansa, he said: "At the end of the season I will speak with the club. I'm very sorry for what happened and for the disappointment caused, especially to Roberto Mancini, who I admire and wish well."