Convention demands that the Football Association is derided as weak and incoherent in high-profile disciplinary cases. For once, it deserves sympathy and support for making a principled stand. The Nicolas Anelka judgment, by an independent commission, denies it the right to govern effectively.
Morally, the FA has a duty to appeal against the verdict, which allows Anelka to escape with a five-match ban, £80,000 fine and attendance on a "compulsory educational course" for making his "quenelle" gesture. It will probably decide to draw a line under an episode that proves football's disciplinary process requires complete revision.
The FA, to its credit, argued on four separate grounds that Anelka needed tougher punished for the quenelle. This was rejected by the commission, whose 35-page report highlights the legal weaknesses of football's much-vaunted crackdown on racist behaviour.
Modern sport is shaped by lawyers who relish the type of ambiguities which litter the Anelka case. The commission insisted that its remit did not include adjudicating on whether the West Bromwich Albion forward is an anti-Semite.
Yet, at the very least, he comes across as wilfully ignorant and reckless in his identification with Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, the inventor of the quenelle and a notorious anti-Semite. Even Professor Marlière, who spoke on his behalf, described him as "a very silly man indeed".
Anelka has known Dieudonné since "about 2000". He claimed he had no idea Dieudonné's act was anti-Semitic, despite the comedian's numerous prosecutions in France.
He claimed he failed to recognise a concentration camp uniform, emblazoned with a yellow star, in one sketch. It beggars belief that despite being educated in France, where Holocaust studies form a mandatory part of the curriculum, he also knew nothing of "Jewish stories".
The report gives a harrowing insight into the man with whom he wished to show solidarity. Rarely has such vile behaviour, and offensive views, been aired in a sporting context. The detail is shocking.
In 2003, on a French TV show entitled "You Can't Please Everyone", Dieudonné appeared dressed as an orthodox Jew and concluded with a Nazi salute and the word "Israheil". This is a man who jokes about gas chambers, and insists the initial purpose of the quenelle was to show how far up the human rectum a dolphin's fin could be inserted.
The salute, in which one arm is straightened and pointed downwards and the other extended across the chest, is, according to the commission, "lewd, abusive and insulting". Anelka said Dieudonné's humour was "lost in translation".
Anelka feels it is sufficient to promise he will never repeat the gesture. His insistence that he made the salute a second time during the match puzzled FA officials, who could find no record of it. He deserves to be stigmatised.
The commission's suggestion that the Luis Suarez case was "more serious" will generate suspicions that anti-Semitic abuse is regarded as less important than other forms of racial abuse.
It is an unedifying mess but not, for a change, one of the FA's making.Reuse content