Jewish groups welcome Anelka’s ban
Nicolas Anelka’s long and sometimes chequered career in English football may have come to an end. The 34-year-old French striker was last night suspended by West Bromwich Albion in the wake of the Football Association finding him guilty of making an insulting gesture that included a reference to religion when he performed the `quenelle’ after scoring at West Ham in December.
However, the FA commission did not find Anelka was anti-Semitic, or intended to promote anti-Semitism. He was thus banned for five matches, the minimum tariff for such an offence under revised rules brought in this season in the wake of the cases involving Luis Suarez and John Terry. Anelka was fined £80,000, which is probably similar to a week’s wages, and ordered to pay the hearing’s costs, which may well be higher than the fine. He has also been ordered to complete a compulsory education course, following a two-day FA hearing conducted by a three-member panel headed by a QC.
The FA commission’s judgement was welcomed by Jewish campaigners. Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said he approved of the requirement for Anelka to attend education. `That’s one of the most attractive parts. We want to educate people. Anelka said he didn’t realise it was anti-Semitic, well, that kind of ignorance is dangerous,’ he said.
The Community Security Trust (CST), a campaign group which combats anti-Semitism and had criticised the pace of the FA’s response, said the process had reached `a satisfactory conclusion’ and the `verdict sends a strong message to Jewish players and supporters at all levels of the game that the FA will act against anti-Semitic acts if they are reported.’
Football’s anti-discrimination group Kick It Out said it would delay comment until Anelka had decided whether to appeal.
Anelka has seven days from receiving the written reasons for the judgement to decide if he wants to appeal. If he does his suspension by the FA will be put on hold. However, it would appear that the ban imposed by Albion would remain. This means if he appeals, and loses, the season could be almost over by the time the process is finished.
Whether Anelka, who nearly quit the game early this season for unrelated reasons, would then wish to play for Albion in those circumstances, or the club wish to pick him, is a moot point.
He made the `quenelle’ after scoring the first of two goals in Albion’s 3-3 draw at West Ham on 28 December. It was done, he said later, in solidarity with his friend Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a controversial French comedian who has been fined for anti-Semitic offences.
Few people in England appreciated its significance at the time but the furore in France soon alerted the FA and campaigners. Anelka was subsequently charged on two counts, of making a gesture that was `abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper’, and that this was `an aggravated breach in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief’. On the latter charge the commission said: `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’.’
Albion said it treated `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.’ Albion added, while the panel did not find Anelka to be an anti-Semite, they could not `ignore the offence that his actions have caused, particularly to the Jewish community, nor the potential damage to the club’s reputation’.