Nicolas Anelka’s future in English football is in the balance after the former France striker was given a five-match ban on Thursday for making a gesture widely condemned as anti-Semitic.
The Football Association cleared Anelka of being an anti-Semite and were convinced that he was not promoting anti-Semitism by his use of the reverse Nazi salute.
However, he was nevertheless guilty of an “aggravated breach” of FA rules for making the ‘quenelle’ while playing for West Bromwich Albion in a Premier League match away to West Ham on December 28.
As a result, the 34-year-old French striker was banned and fined STG80,000 ($A150,000).
Anelka was also ordered to complete a “compulsory education course” although he does have the right of appeal.
Anelka’s lawyers, Brown Rudnick, responded by saying: “Nicolas Anelka is pleased that the FA regulatory commission has found him not to be an anti-Semite and that he did not intend to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle gesture.
“He is now waiting to receive the commission’s full reasons for their decision before considering whether or not to appeal.”
West Brom, who last month heard main sponsor Zoopla announce they would not be renewing a STG3 million ($A5.61 million) deal that expires at the end of the season, said they would suspend 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 anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the ‘quenelle”,” said a West Brom 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.”
The Midlands club, currently just one point above the relegation zone with 11 games left, are not in action again until a home match against English champions Manchester United on March 8.
Former France international forward Anelka made the ‘quenelle’ after scoring the first of his two goals in a 3-3 draw at Upton Park.
The quenelle, described as an inverted Nazi salute, has been popularised by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a friend of Anelka’s and who has been prosecuted in France for various racial offences.
Anelka maintained his goal celebration was an anti-establishment gesture in support of Dieudonne and in a Twitter post in December denied there was any prejudiced intent on his part.
Earlier this month, Dieudonne was banned from entering the United Kingdom after the Home Office, Britain’s interior ministry, made him the subject of an exclusion order.