Nicolas Anelka 'quenelle' gesture: West Brom striker given five-match ban and fined £80,000 for 'reverse Nazi salute'

The Frenchman is able to appeal against the decision

Nicolas Anelka has been given a five-match ban and fined £80,000 for the 'quenelle' gesture he performed after scoring for West Brom against West Ham at the end of last year.

The action caused much debate, with uncertainty over whether the gesture was in fact offensive.

Some have called it a 'reverse Nazi salute' with anti-semitic connotations, while Anelka has said it was purely performed to show solidarity with his friend and French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala who brought the gesture to prominence.

Anelka was charged with two offenses: "In or around the 40th minute of the match he made a gesture (known as the ‘quenelle’) which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3(1)" and "That the misconduct was an "Aggravated Breach" as defined by FA Rule E3(2) in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief."

Anelka denied both charges but the Independent Regulatory Commission, which heard from the player, two expert witnesses and submissions from Leading Counsel for The FA, found him guilty of both offenses.

 

The FA explained on their website that Anelka is not "an Anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote Anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle."

Anelka, who has the right to appeal the decision in the next seven days, has also been ordered to complete a compulsory education course.

It remains unclear which West Brom games the Frenchman will miss, with the penalty suspended until after the outcome of any appeal.

The club have announced that the former Arsenal and Chelsea player has been suspended pending the conclusion of the FA's disciplinary process.

Anelka's friend Dieudonne has been prosecuted for inciting racial hatred in France and Dieudonne's supporters have been pictured using the quenelle as an anti-Jewish gesture. The comedian has also been banned from entering the UK.

The case was expected to hinge on whether Anelka had any knowledge of the quenelle's anti-Semitic connotations and also whether he could be found guilty of the charge even if he was not aware of the full implications of the gesture.

The commission determined that, while he may not have grasped the serious nature of the salute, he could still be issued with the five-match punishment, which is the most lenient that could have been imposed under the FA's new anti-discrimination rules.

At the time of Anelka performing the quenelle, the European Jewish Congress claimed the former Arsenal and Real Madrid player should be subjected to the same punishment handed out to those who perform a Nazi salute.

French minister for sport Valerie Fourneyron also condemned the gesture as "shocking" and "disgusting".

Anelka has been insistent all along that, on his part, it was an innocent gesture.

He wrote on Twitter in December: "I do not know what religion has to do with this story", adding that "of course I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic".