The Jewish community have urged the Football Association to “follow through” after charging the French Premier League footballer who performed the controversial ‘quenelle’ gesture with misconduct.
Nicolas Anelka, 34, a striker for Midlands club West Bromwich Albion, now faces a five-game ban if found guilty, with a new European agreement meaning that this could be extended to ten matches.
In an FA statement, the governing body said: “It is alleged that 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,” it said. Anelka has until 6pm on Thursday to respond.
The news follows a three-week investigation during which an academic was brought in to advise the FA on the nature and meaning of the ‘quenelle’ salute, which involves one arm being held straight down against the body while the other is brought across to the shoulder.
It has been described as “an inverted Nazi salute” and was popularised by Anelka’s friend and fellow countryman, comedian Dieudonne.
“Nobody seriously disputes that Dieudonne is anti-Semitic,” read a statement from the Community Security Trust (CST). “The man has a string of convictions for antisemitic offences. In November, he had been fined 28,000 Euros for a song mocking the Holocaust.”
The FA’s announcement was greeted with relief from the Jewish community, which has been pressing for action.
“This is clearly the right decision,” said Board of Deputies’ Vice-President Jonathan Arkush. “We support the FA in treating this incident seriously and we look to them to follow through with equal determination.”
The announcement comes less than 24 hours after the club’s principal sponsor, property website Zoopla, said it would not be renewing its £3 million contract with West Brom at the end of the season.
This week, pressure was building on the club’s other sponsors to consider their position, with Carlsberg, Adidas, a German clothing company and the University of Wolverhampton among the commercial partners.
However former Manchester United defender and England Assistant Manager Gary Neville was less impressed with the idea that sponsors would withdraw.
“You want commercial partners at football clubs who support you through thick and thin,” he said. “Incidents are going to happen. I find it absolutely ridiculous that they’re getting involved.”
But community voices made clear they viewed it differently. Anelka has introduced a very ugly phenomenon into British football,” said the CST.
“His action risks the ‘quenelle’ being taken up by actual anti-Semites and used against British Jews: as it has been in France and elsewhere. The FA should throw the book at him.”