Joel Matip (FC Schalke 04) had been sent off in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st leg between FC Twente and FC Schalke 04 (1-0). Referee Craig Thomson from Scotland had issued the red card against the defender for an alleged professional foul on Twente's striker de Jong.
After Schalke had lost the match due to the wrongly awarded penalty as consequence, the responsibles of the German club entered a caveat at UEFA's arbitration court to abandon the mandatory minimum punishment of one match. UEFA rejected that. However, Schalke again raised an objection, so that UEFA decided to reschedule the negotiation after the 2nd leg which was won by Schalke (4-1).
|Acquittal: Joel Matip may play for Schalke in 1/4 finals|
Today, UEFA has announced that Matip will not be suspended for any match. A historical decision. Why?
One has to differ between an infringement made by the referee and a decision based on facts: while an infringement could mean that the referee e.g. issues a yellow card to the wrong player (cf. Wolfgang Stark in AC Milan - FC Barcelona) or sends a player off with the 2nd yellow card even though the player had not received a card before, a decision based on facts is - in accordance to FIFA statutes - final and inevitable. This has got plenty of reasons: According to FIFA, the referee is - along with his team - the sole decision maker, so that decisions that are obviously wrong have to be accepted though in order to avoid a lack of authority the officials have to pose. In addition to this, the regulations also clarify that this principle has to be applied in arbitration courts with regard to probable punishments and suspensions as well (cf. Lauterbach, Kathrin, Universität Bayreuth, Veröffentlichung auf sportrecht.org, p. 13 ff.; cf. FIFA Laws of the Game p.24 "Decisions of the Referee" (1)).
The incident in Enschede was certainly no infringement conducted by referee Thomson, as he was correctly applying the Laws of the Game, however, he had bad luck that there was no contact.
With this decision, UEFA has proved that they have not lost common sense yet, however, that there is kind of decline of sense of right and wrong.
Anyway, not every breach of rules automatically harms football..