• Gesture said to be ‘abusive or indecent or insulting or improper’
• Striker has until Thursday to respond to FA charge
• West Brom sponsor Zoopla ends deal in light of Anelka’s action
Nicolas Anelka has been charged by the Football Association for making a gesture that was alleged to be “abusive or indecent or insulting or improper” during the match against West Ham on 28 December last year.
An FA statement said: “It is alleged that, in the 40th minute of the fixture, Anelka made a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3 .
“It is further alleged that this is an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3 , in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.”
Anelka has until 6pm on 23 January 2014 to respond to the charge.
The minimum suspension for the offence is five games though the FA could make it more.
West Brom issued a statement saying they had “noted The FA’s charge against Nicolas Anelka regarding the gesture he made after scoring his first goal against West Ham United on December 28.
“Anelka has received a 34-page document explaining the allegations against him and informing him that he has until 6pm on Thursday to respond. The player is now considering his options.
“Under FA rules, Anelka remains available for first-team selection until the FA’s disciplinary process has reached its conclusion. Following this, the club will conclude its own internal inquiry.”
Anelka made the gesture, commonly interpreted as a quenelle, during a goal celebration against West Ham United last month. The quenelle has antisemitic connotations and has been described by some as an inverted Nazi salute, although Anelka has insisted he was merely showing solidarity with the French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, who brought the gesture to prominence, and that it was an anti-establishment gesture lacking any racist intent.
Dieudonné, however, has a chequered past – he has been prosecuted by the French government for insulting the memory of Holocaust victims and for holding antisemitic views. He was also recently banned from performing in Nantes.
As the FA’s protracted investigation dragged on, West Brom’s £3m-a-year sponsor, the property website Zoopla, announced that it would sever all ties with the Premier League club at the end of this season.
In a statement released on the eve of Albion’s Premier League 1-1 draw with Everton at the Hawthorns on Monday night, Zoopla – co-owned by the Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman – said it had been reviewing its position ever since the Frenchman made the gesture.
The shirt sponsorship deal was due to expire at the end of the season but Zoopla, which was reported last week to have contacted the club to express dissatisfaction with Anelka’s actions, opted to go public with its decision on Monday afternoon, after informing Albion in writing that it would not be seeking to renew its agreement for the 2014-15 campaign.
The FA brought in an expert to help decide on whether charges should be brought and has spent several weeks working on the case due to its sensitivity.
A three-man independent regulatory commission will now be appointed to deal with the case – either to decide on the sanction if Anelka admits the charge or to hold a disciplinary hearing if he denies it.
“If Nicolas Anelka is found guilty of a racial offence, then he deserves everything he gets,” said Alan Cleverley, secretary of the West Bromwich Albion Official Supporters Club, told the BBC.
“You can’t go on doing that. It sounds as if he did it on purpose because he knew the match was being shown live in France. So if the book gets thrown at him, I’ve got no sympathy whatsoever for him.”
Football’s antidiscrimination group Kick It Out, which has expressed frustration over the length of time taken to decide on the case, called for a swift conclusion.
A statement said: “The FA has previously demonstrated its commitment to taking effective and swift action to deal with all forms of abusive conduct in football, and has spent a longer time than desirable in order to give careful consideration to the allegations made in this case.
“Kick It Out awaits Anelka’s response to the charge before making any further comment. The campaign hopes that this matter can now be quickly concluded.”
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