The club announced their decision following confirmation from the FA that an independent regulatory commission had found Anelka guilty of making a gesture that was “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, and that included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief”.
The punishment was the most lenient that the FA could have imposed under their new anti-discrimination rules. However, the governing body reported that the three-man panel “did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an antisemite or that he intended to express or promote antisemitism by his use of the quenelle”.
It remains to be seen whether Anelka will appeal against the punishment, which includes attending a compulsory education programme. The 34-year-old said from the outset that the quenelle was a “special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné [M’Bala M’Bala]” and maintained that the gesture he made at Upton Park on 28 December was anti-establishment rather than antisemitic.
Dieudonné, however, is a hugely controversial figure. The man who brought the quenelle to prominence has been prosecuted by the French government for insulting the memory of holocaust victims and holding antisemitic views. Earlier this month he was banned from entering the UK. Anelka, however, convinced the FA panel that, although he performed the quenelle, there was no antisemitic agenda.
Albion have faced criticism for the way that they have handled the issue – Anelka was made available for selection before and after the charges were brought – but the club adopted a robust stance in the wake of the verdict. Anelka will be suspended until the conclusion of the FA’s process and Albion’s own investigation. The picture should become clearer once Albion and Anelka have received the written reasons for the decision. Once Anelka has that report, the striker has seven days to decide whether to appeal.
A statement on Albion’s website said: “West Bromwich Albion treats very seriously any such allegation which includes any reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion and/or belief. Upon both charges being proven, the club has suspended Nicolas Anelka pending the conclusion of the FA’s disciplinary process and the club’s own internal investigation.
“The club acknowledges that the FA panel ‘did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an antisemite’ … 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.”
In an earlier statement, Anelka’s legal advisers, Brown Rudnick LLP, said: “Nicolas Anelka is pleased that the FA regulatory commission has found him not to be an antisemite and that he did not intend to express or promote antisemitism. He is now waiting to receive the commission’s full reasons for their decision before considering whether or not to appeal.”
If it is difficult to imagine Anelka playing for Albion again this season, it is almost a foregone conclusion that the club will not take up the one-year option they hold when the forward’s contract expires in the summer. Anelka’s signing on a free transfer last July has proved to be something of a disaster, with the only two goals he has contributed in 12 appearances coming in the 3-3 draw at West Ham that was totally overshadowed by the quenelle storm.
While some leading figures within both the Jewish community and anti-racism groups have declined to comment on the severity of the punishment until they have read the panel’s full report, others praised the FA for the way they have handled a far from straightforward case.
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said:
“The sanction that has been applied is the minimum that could have been raised and nobody can complain about that. After all, this is Anelka’s first offence of this nature. The panel found him not be an antisemite, I don’t disagree with that. He has made a gesture that was antisemitic. I think all those involved in the fight against racism, who care that sport processes are robust to deal with all forms of racism, should welcome the verdict.”In a separate development in a turbulent week at The Hawthorns, Dave McDonough, Albion’s director of technical performance and scouting, has parted company with the club by mutual consent. McDonough had an influential part to play in the recruitment of Pepe Mel as head coach – a decision that has come under increased scrutiny on the back of the Spaniard’s failure to win in his six matches in charge.
There had also been unease among the players about McDonough broadening his role and becoming more involved with the first-team.
From The Guardian