The Football Association has come under increasing pressure to deliver a finding on the Nicolas Anelka “quenelle” case after a leading Jewish lobby group told The Independent of the “growing frustration and incomprehension” at the length of time the inquiry was taking.
The West Bromwich Albion striker made the controversial gesture almost three weeks ago after scoring at West Ham. With the FA investigation still dragging on, Kick It Out also intervened, criticising the timescale and calling for more transparency.
The football equality campaign group said it wanted to register anxiety at the FA’s “total silence” on the issue and to counter criticisms from Jewish groups that it had not been sufficiently strident in criticising Anelka. It said: “Kick It Out, like others, is very frustrated at the length of time taken to investigate this issue and, as usual, has taken criticism, particularly from community organisations, who feel deeply and rightly aggrieved by the gesture and want to know why the campaign has not made more of a public condemnatory statement of Anelka’s actions.”
Pressure on Kick It Out from community organisations is one of the main reasons for today’s statement. The leading Jewish group, the Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors anti-Semitism and security matters, was even more critical of the slowness of the investigation.
“There is growing frustration and incomprehension at how long this is taking,” a CST spokesman said. “The CST would like the FA to be more open about the specifics of their investigation, wanting a clear explanation of the process and the timescale. The lack of transparency and the lack of an explanation is not helping.”
Kick It Out has been working with the FA on the Anelka case, feeding it with relevant information from community organisations, but feels that it has not heard nearly enough since then.
“In spite of requests from Kick It Out for information about the progress of the investigation, there has been total silence from the FA until Friday 10 January,” a spokesman said. Kick It Out does not feel that it has been told much more than the general public.
While the organisation insisted that it respects the FA’s process and does not seek to influence the specific findings, the CST was clear that it wanted to see this taken to its conclusion and Anelka handed a meaningful ban.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Labour MP John Mann, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism and the chair of the FA’s own commission – now completed – on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in football.
Mann backed the strong statement from Kick It Out – but hoped it was not “too little too late” – and urged a long ban for Anelka. “In using the quenelle, Nicolas Anelka has given anti-Semites in Britain a new tool for expressing their hatred,” Mann said. “I have written to [the FA chairman] Greg Dyke, urging him to ensure the FA executes proper moral authority and institutes a multi-match ban against Mr Anelka. The zero-tolerance approach to racism in football must be consistently applied.”
The FA, which said last Friday it was talking to an “appointed expert” on the matter, will not make any further comment until Monday at the earliest, and would not comment today.
Anelka said he had made the gesture to dedicate the goal to his friend, the French comedian Dieudonné, around whom controversy has since escalated. The French Government intervened last week to secure bans on the latest series of shows by the performer, who has convictions for fomenting hatred of Jews.