Anelka banned over 'quenelle', but he is not an anti-Semite
Forward fined £80,000, ordered to attend education programme and banned by West Brom
NICOLAS ANELKA'S decision to make the controversial 'quenelle' gesture after scoring a goal has cost him dear. The West Bromwich Albion forward was on Thursday banned for five matches, fined £80,000 and ordered to attend an education programme after the Football Association found him guilty of making an abusive or insulting gesture and one that included a reference to race or religion.
The charges, which stem from the first half of West Brom's 3-3 draw against West Ham in December, were contested by the 34-year-old Frenchman, but he was found guilty on both counts by the FA. In a statement they said: "The regulatory commission heard from the player, two expert witnesses and submissions from leading counsel for the FA and Nicolas Anelka."
On the first charge of making an abusive or insulting gesture Anelka was found guilty, as he was on the second, though there was a caveat from the FA, which added: "We did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle."
The statement added: "In consequence of the finding on Charge 2, the player will be subject to an education programme, the details of which will be provided to him by the FA."
Anelka,who has seven days to appeal the decision, later released a statement through his laywers that said he "is pleased that the FA Regulatory Commission has found him not to be an anti-Semite and that he did not intend to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle gesture".
West Brom, who have already lost their main sponsor over the incident, responded swiftly to the FA's decision, suspending Anelka while they awaited the full verdict. "The club acknowledges that the FA panel did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an anti-Semite," said WBA in a statement. "However, the club cannot ignore the offence that his actions have caused, particularly to the Jewish community, nor the potential damage to the club's reputation."
Anelka has always denied that there was any racist connotations to his gesture, even though in the eyes of many the 'quenelle' is a downwards Nazi salute. The Frenchman said he made the gesture in support of his friend, comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, a controversial figure in France who has been fined seven times for defamation, insult, provocation to hate, and racial discrimination.
Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the BBC she welcomed Anelka's punishment, saying: "The quenelle is something that few of us in the UK recognise. In France it's known as being a vicious anti-Semitic gesture... Anelka said he didn't realise it was anti-Semitic, well that kind of ignorance is dangerous."