KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The anti-discrimination pressure group Kick It Out has come to the defence of Mario Balotelli in the latest instance of apparent French refereeing incompetence.

Italy forward Balotelli was shown a yellow card during Nice’s 3-2 defeat by Dijon on Saturday for protesting to referee Nicolas Rainville about racist chanting being directed at him by opposition fans. Last month another French referee was suspended for deliberately tripping a player in another league game.

Kick It Out said it had been “shocked” by the Balotelli incident.

Mario Balotelli . . . making his point

A statement said: “It is unacceptable and wrong to see that, once again, a match official has failed to apply the UEFA protocol – in place for a number of years – which requires action to be taken to stop the game to deal with the offending abuse.”

Kick It Out is an English organisation but it has raised its concerns with Footabll Against Racism in Europe (FARE) “to see what actions they will be taking in raising this with Ligue 1 officials.”

It added: “The organisation expects a strong response from the French football authorities in condemning both the alleged racist chanting from Dijon supporters and the failure of the referee to follow protocol to halt the behaviour as well as the decision to compound Balotelli’s experience as a victim by bookng him for merely asking the match official to do his job.”

Balotelli has been a regular target for racist abuse from his early teenage years in Italian football. Last year the former Inter, Milan, Liverpool and Manchester City striker complained about monkey chants being aimed at him by an opposition fan during a match against Bastia.

The supporter was later banned by the club.

Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet said: “I told Mario that I had not heard racist chanting but he replied to me that there were some. Two or three supporters apparently provoked him.”