London - West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka faces a lengthy ban after
being charged by the Football Association on Tuesday over an allegedly
The 34-year-old French striker performed the
'quenelle' salute, putting one arm across his chest and straightening
the other, during West Brom's 3-3 draw at West Ham United in the Premier
League last month.
The FA said that Anelka had made a gesture
that was "abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper" and
included "a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or
Anelka has until 1800 GMT on Thursday to respond to the
charge and if found guilty he faces a minimum five-game suspension,
under new anti-discrimination measures introduced by the FA in May last
An independent three-person commission will be appointed to
deal with the case, which will be decided by a disciplinary hearing if
Anelka contests the charge.
West Brom said in a statement that
Anelka was "considering his options" after receiving a 34-page document
from the FA explaining the charges facing him.
The club also
underlined that Anelka "remains available for first-team selection until
the FA's disciplinary process has reached its conclusion".
'quenelle', popularised by French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, has
been described by critics in France as an inverted Nazi salute, but
Anelka has insisted that it was merely "a dedication" to the comic.
He also took to Twitter to affirm that he was "neither anti-Semite nor racist", but stopped short of issuing an apology.
M'bala, better known simply as Dieudonne, has been prosecuted for
anti-Semitism in France, but he says the salute is merely an
The FA's decision to charge Anelka,
after a three-and-a-half-week investigation, comes a day after West
Brom's shirt sponsors, property website Zoopla, decided to end their
association with the club.
"In recent weeks we have decided to
re-evaluate this sponsorship and as a result we will focus our attention
on other marketing activities from the end of the season," said
Lawrence Hall, Zoopla's head of communications.
The deal was
reportedly worth £3 million over two
years, but West Brom said that they had already been planning to find a
Anelka, a former France international, has continued
to appear for the club despite the furore and played for 77 minutes in
his side's 1-1 draw with Everton on Monday.
Speaking after the game, West Brom's new Spanish coach, Pepe Mel, said that he had no qualms about continuing to select Anelka.
"I don't know. I am only head coach," Mel told Sky Sports when asked about the affair.
"He is a good personality. He needs a goal and he will work for me very well."
thanked West Brom and the club's fans for their support after the game,
writing on Twitter: "Big thanks to @WBAofficial for the support on this
story & also to the West Bromwich fans who were magnificent
Anelka has agreed to a request from West Brom not to
repeat the salute, following a wave of criticism in the immediate
aftermath of the incident.
British anti-racism organisation Kick
It Out, meanwhile, has criticised the FA for the time it has taken to
bring the affair to a conclusion.
Jewish pressure groups based in
Britain have called for Anelka to be hit with a lengthy suspension, but
he has received support from Everton's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku,
who is a Kick It Out ambassador.
Speaking before details of the FA
charge were announced, Lukaku gave a video interview to the Everton
website in which he said: "I don't think he should be banned for that.
He was just supporting a comedian in France."
The 20-year-old added: "We don't have to make such a big deal about it."
the video was subsequently removed, with an Everton spokesman telling
Britain's Press Association: "It is the player's opinion and not the
opinion held by the football club."
Anelka, who converted to Islam
in 2004, has had a chequered playing career, having notably been sent
home from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after clashing with France
coach Raymond Domenech.
He was subsequently handed an 18-match ban by the French Football Federation.
'Le Sulk' in the British media due to his surly on-pitch demeanour, he
has played for a total of 11 clubs, including European giants Paris
Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea.