Mario Balotelli escaped a nine-match ban for his dangerous challenge on Arsenal's Alex Song on a farcical day for the Football Association's disciplinary procedures, which caused disbelief within the game and left many elite match officials disillusioned at the disquiet directed at their fraternity.
It is understood that neither Martin Atkinson, the referee for Sunday's game which City's lost 1-0, nor his assistants will be stood down for any future match because of the incident.
The FA cited Fifa regulations for its inability to take retrospective action against Balotelli for his knee-high tackle on Song. But the upholding of the red card for Queens Park Rangers' Shaun Derry despite Ashley Young clearly diving during the London club's 2-0 defeat at Manchester United earlier the same afternoon, and the correct decision to charge Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic for violent conduct for an incident involving Wigan Athletic's Shaun Maloney the previous day left the governing body open to accusations of inconsistency. It will also do little to calm tensions towards officials or the disciplinary process following a weekend in which a number of managers have spoken out in frustration.
The coming together of Balotelli and Song was seen by Atkinson and the nearest assistant referee. But they were partially unsighted so the serious nature of the incident was missed by them, the other assistant and the fourth official. This meant the episode was included in the official match report, and so Fifa rules that state any in-game issue cannot be reofficiated later tied the FA's hands.
While this procedure is endorsed by all Premier League clubs, it is understood that Atkinson and many of his elite match official colleagues are unhappy at the criticism aimed at them.
The statement from the FA said: "Retrospective action in relation to the incident involving Mario Balotelli of Manchester City and Alex Song of Arsenal, which occurred in the 20th minute of Sunday's game, will not be taken. Where at least one of the officials has seen the coming together of players retrospective action is not taken, regardless of whether they have seen the full extent of the challenge.
"Retrospective action can only be taken in scenarios where none of the match officials saw the players coming together. The normal scenarios in which retrospective action is taken are for 'off the ball' incidents. Retrospective action was introduced for off the ball incidents where there was no contest for possession and could not be deemed to be re-refereeing an incident. In agreement with Fifa, this is how 'not seen' incidents are dealt with retrospectively in England. It is a policy that is agreed with all football stakeholders."
Balotelli has been sent off twice this season, including for the two yellow cards he later received against Arsenal, and been found guilty of a further red card offence retrospectively. So any eventual sanction for the studs-high challenge on Song would have been his fourth red card, and increased his tariff to a nine-game ban. While he will now miss three matches and be available for City's final three games of the season, Derry misses QPR's meeting with Swansea City on Wednesday.
"Queens Park Rangers midfielder Shaun Derry will serve a one-match suspension with immediate effect after his claim of wrongful dismissal was rejected by a regulatory commission today," the FA's statement said.
But, with there being no explanation regarding why Derry's sending-off was not rescinded despite Young going down under minimal contact, there will be further outrage at QPR. Phillip Beard, the club's CEO, said after the game that Young "could partner diver Tom Daley at the Olympic Games".
There was further confusion when the FA announced that after reviewing video evidence Ivanovic would be charged for apparently aiming a punch at Maloney, which was not seen by the match officials, but was caught on video, during his side's 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Replays showed both Chelsea goals in the 2-1 win should have been disallowed for offside and Mike Riley, the head of the Professional Game Match Officials Board, apologised for this. Roberto Martínez, the Wigan manager, said: "He just said he understands that at the level of refereeing in this league, they should get that call right. I think that is a very honourable way to face mistakes. We are all capable of making mistakes and it is about how you react to them."
Dave Bryan, the assistant referee who missed the offsides, was stood down from Tuesday night's game between Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool.