Why wasn’t Van Persie sent off against Man United?

According to the laws of the game, shouldn’t Robin Van Persie have been sent off against Manchester United in Arsenal’s 2-1 loss on Sunday? I know when it comes to yellow and red cards it’s often pretty hard to keep track of all of football’s strange rules. But it’s widely believed that an automatic yellow card is to be shown to any player who lifts his team shirt to reveal a printed message on a tee-shirt below.
Well, after the Dutchman’s brilliant goal in the 71st minute he lifted his Arsenal top to reveal a message wishing his grandfather a happy 91st birthday. According to popular belief he should have received a yellow card for that infraction. However, he didn’t, but he did receive a yellow card around the 85th minute for dissent. This would have been his second yellow and technically he should have been sent off for an early shower.
Either the FA hasn’t been telling the truth all these years or the referees do have the power of using their discretion when it comes to this rule. We all remember the head-stomping Mario Balotelli getting a yellow card earlier in the season when he lifted his Man City top to reveal a message that read ‘Why Always Me’ after scoring against United at Old Trafford.
Referee Mark Clattenburg showed the Italian striker a yellow card even though he just lifted his shirt and didn’t take it off and it was believed he did so because it was mandatory. It didn’t matter what the message said, be it political or personal, he was to receive a yellow card and all players in the league know about the rule. But that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.
About a week after Balotelli’s card, Billy Sharp, the captain of Doncaster Rovers, scored a goal and revealed a shirt that had a message in honour of his two-day-old son, Luey Jacob Sharp, who tragically died just a few days earlier. However, in this case referee Darren Deadman didn’t produce a yellow card and show it to the grieving Sharp. But was this the referee’s decision and if so, according to the rules wasn’t he wrong not to caution Sharp?
It appears Deadman was just going what he felt was morally right considering the circumstances and most fans felt he was spot on. But in a strikingly similar instance, I believe Tamir Cohen, who played for Bolton last season, received a yellow card after revealing a tee-shirt in honour of his famous father Avi Cohen, who had died just several days prior to Bolton’s match against Arsenal. Cohen happened to score a goal and the referee immediately booked him.
Football fans and players have always been led to believe these types of actions are supposed to be punished automatically by yellow cards and on most occasions they are. But, how is it that some aren’t? Is there something the FA or FIFA isn’t telling us? It seems to be just one more in a long line of rules that isn’t being called consistently.
This isn’t about whether or not you agree with the rule. It’s just something that piqued my interest during the game on Sunday and something I don’t have an answer for. Perhaps there’s somebody out there who knows the official wording to this rule and can shed some light on it?
On a side note, I saw some websites were already selling tee-shirts that read ‘Happy 91st Opa Wim,’ which is what Van Persie had written on his chest. They’re 17 American dollars and are available in several different sizes and colours. However, for some reason I didn’t see one in yellow, or red for that matter.

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