MILAN (AFP) - Italian league officials on Tuesday decided not to sanction Kevin-Prince Boateng or AC Milan after the Ghanaian midfielder led his side off the pitch during a recent friendly to protest at being racially abused.
Boateng and Milan hit the headlines worldwide when, during Serie A's winter break, he stormed off the pitch 26 minutes into a friendly against fourth division Pro Patria, based in Busto Arsizio near Milan.
Applauded by anti-racism campaigners the world over, supported by his club but criticised by Fifa president Sepp Blatter, Boateng faced a possible sanction by league chiefs.
But on Tuesday he and Milan were given the all-clear.
A statement by the Disciplinary Commission of Serie A said: "Under current football regulations no rule allows for a team to stop a match and abandon the pitch if not in accordance with the decisions of the referee.
"However under the fundamental rules of sport and those pertaining to civic society we cannot sanction a gesture of support for a man who has been victim of vulgar insults purely on the basis of the colour of his skin."
While world football chief Blatter had railed against Boateng's decision to walk off, a lawyer specialising in sports law said the incident could prove a turning point.
"Every case has to be evaluated independently, but this has set a precedent and could signal a turnaround," said Mattia Grassani.
Pro Patria's punishment for the 15 or so fans who reportedly abused Boateng will amount to playing their next match behind closed doors.
The governing body that runs third and fourth division football in Italy, the Lega Pro, reacted by ordering that no fans be allowed to attend Pro Patria's upcoming match.
The behaviour of a group of Pro Patria fans was "of an extreme seriousness", the Lega Pro said.