Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer and Bundesliga’s controversial triple-jeopardy rule

As Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng returns from suspension, Ian Hawkey explains the controversial triple-jeopardy principle applied to red card punishments in the Bundesliga.

Jrome Boateng, left, has become the latest victim of the Bundesliga's controversial triple-jeopardy principle. Steve Dykes / Getty
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Jerome Boateng, the Bayern Munich defender, returns from suspension today for the trip to Paderborn.

He has served a two-match Bundesliga ban for his red card against Schalke two-and-a-half weeks ago, but he and his club are still miffed.

The two-game ban meant Boateng missed the festival that was Bayern’s 8-0 thumping of Hamburg last weekend and, for that, he can begrudge his goalkeeper and Germany teammate, Manuel Neuer.

“Does Neuer have something against you?” Hans E Lorenz, a member of the German Federation’s disciplinary commission, apparently asked Boateng, lightheartedly, when he attended an appeal hearing about the length of his ban.

Lorenz was highlighting one aspect of a complex rule that operates in German football, a rule that has been causing confusion and controversy.


Boateng earned his red card in the 1-1 draw against Schalke for bringing down Sidney Sam in the penalty area.

Referee Bastian Dankert awarded a spot-kick and sent off Boateng, deeming his foul to have prevented a clear scoring opportunity.

So far, no problem. Dankert had applied the game’s laws. But Boateng then faced what is known as “triple jeopardy”.

Bayern received three distinct punishments for his offence: A) they were down to 10 men; B) Schalke had a penalty; C) Boateng would be automatically suspended for at least the next Bayern game.

Triple jeopardy is a system much debated, as many have railed against it as unfair to the offending team.

German football’s governing body applies its own take on triple jeopardy.

Their system makes the length of the dismissed player’s suspension conditional on the outcome of the penalty (or the free kick, if the denial of a “clear scoring opportunity” took place outside the area).

If the penalty – or free kick – does not lead to a goal, then an extra, second match of suspension must be served by the red-carded player.

The principle is to balance the punishment. If the attacking team has not benefited from B), then the offending team get a further disadvantage in terms of C), the suspension.

So when Neuer saved Schalke striker Eric Choupo-Moting’s spot-kick as Boateng, sent off, watched from the dressing-room, the keeper effectively condemned his own defender to a longer period out of action.

So we find the reason for Lorenz’s joke to Boateng at the appeal hearing, which upheld the extra match of Boateng’s suspension, although it annulled a further, third-game ban that had been originally applied because of Boateng’s red-card record, according to a different rule.

The system has drawn strong criticism, particularly from goalkeepers, who tend to be red-carded more often than defenders for the sort of last-gasp fouls that deny clear scoring ­opportunities.

There is also an anomaly. As Borussia Monchengladbach keeper Yann Sommer put it: “What happens if my team is winning by a comfortable margin? What should I do? Deliberately let the opposition penalty go in, so my red-carded teammate serves a smaller suspension? That would be the logical thing for me to do.”

Neuer’s view is that “the rule should be stopped immediately, it makes no sense”.

Change may be on the way. The triple jeopardy principle has been much-debated over the past 15 years.

Next Saturday, the International Football Association Board, the sport’s lawmakers, are to consider a Uefa proposal that the issuing of an automatic red card for offences that deny a clear scoring opportunity be reconsidered.

The downside is that an easing of that law would lead to an increase in cynical, so-called “professional fouls”.

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