Nicolas Anelka Banned 5 Matches, Fined £80,000 for Quenelle Gesture

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2014

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Updates from Thursday, Mar. 13

According to Richard Conway of BBC, Nicolas Anelka will not appeal the five-match ban:

Owen Gibson of The Guardian reports the FA is satisfied with Anelka's punishment:

Updates from Thursday, Mar. 6

The FA has released a PDF explaining the decision behind Nicolas Anelka's punishment. 

Updates From Saturday, Mar. 1

According to the Associated Press, the FA is considering reassessing Anelka's ban:

  The English Football Association could push for Nicolas Anelka to serve more than a five-match ban for a racially aggravated goal celebration by appealing against its own disciplinary panel's verdict.

The West Bromwich Albion striker on Wednesday received the minimum FA racism ban for performing a gesture which is known in France as a "quenelle" and has been called an "inverted Nazi salute."

Although the gesture was found to be racist, the FA's independent commission backed Anelka's insistence that he was not being intentionally anti-Semitic.

FA General Secretary Alex Horne says it won't receive the written reasons until Monday "at which point it's open to appeal from either our side or from Nicolas Anelka's side."

Until then Horne says he can't comment on "whether five matches is enough."

Original Text

West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka has received a five-match ban from the English Football Association in connection with a controversial gesture he made after scoring a goal against West Ham United in December.        

Anelka was also fined £80,000 for the gesture.

The Football Association passed along word of the suspension on Thursday:

An Independent Regulatory Commission has found an aggravated breach of FA Rule E3 against Nicolas Anelka proven and has issued a five-match suspension and a fine of £80,000, pending appeal.

The West Bromwich Albion player has also been ordered to complete a compulsory education course.

The Independent Regulatory Commission will provide written reasons for its decision in due course.

Mr Anelka has the right to appeal the decision. Mr Anelka must notify The FA of his intention to appeal within seven days of receipt of the written reasons.

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Rob Harris of The Associated Press provided further perspective:

The action in question was a so-called "quenelle" gesture, which is viewed by some as a Nazi salute in reverse. After he made the sign, it drew the immediate ire of French sports minister Valerie Fourneyron due to its possible anti-Semitic roots.

"Shocking and disgusting" and "there was no place for anti-Semitism on the football field" are some of the comments made by Fourneyron about the situation, according to the BBC.

West Brom has also suspended Anelka while the remainder of the process plays out, according to a statement on the club website:

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 anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle’. 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.

David Delew, the Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust, provided a statement on Anelka (via The Board of Deputies of British Jews):

Nicolas Anelka has rightly been found guilty of introducing an ugly antisemitic gesture into British football. We acknowledge Anelka’s denial of antisemitic intent, but his action was clear and the FA’s zero tolerance approach to racism meant there could be no other outcome. This verdict sends a strong message to Jewish players and supporters at all levels of the game that the FA will act against antisemitic acts if they are reported.

Anelka defended himself throughout the process. He claimed the gesture had nothing to do with religion, but was rather dedicated to French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala and sent a message of anti-system.

CNN translated his remarks and provided more information:

"(The) meaning (of) quenelle: anti-system. I do not know what the word religion has to do with this story! Of course, I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic," the footballer, who converted to Islam in 2004, tweeted last month after the incident.

After making the gesture against West Ham, Anelka agreed to his club's request that he would not repeat it.

In charging Anelka, the FA noted that the gesture in question did violate Rule E3, concluding that it involved an improper reference:

It is alleged that, in the 40th minute of the fixture, Anelka made a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3[1].

It is further alleged that this is an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3[2], in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.

Only Anelka knows if he had a firm understanding of the sign before he flashed it during the match against West Ham or if he truly viewed it differently than others.

By handing out the ban, the FA is making it clear these types of gestures have no place in the sport. It also sends a message to players that they shouldn't make any signal that could come off negatively, even if they believe it to have a separate meaning.

Recently, Anelka has been sidelined by a shin injury. Sky Sports reported he had returned to training with the club, but wasn't ready for a full return to action ahead of the FA hearing.

The 34-year-old French striker has watched his form drop off ever since he left Chelsea in 2012. West Brom signed him over the summer in an attempt to bolster a middling attack, but the results have been mixed.

It's unclear if Anelka will move right back into a prominent role on the attack once the ban comes to an end. As the CNN report mentions, he has also run into separate problems during stints with Real Madrid, Chelsea and the French national team.

In light of Anelka's suspension and the ban from the FA, it's unclear when or if the player will return to the pitch this season.

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