Sam Wallace on Nicolas Anelka's 'quenelle' gesture: Getting any ban was tough work in complex case for the FA

No one in France has ever been convicted for having made the gesture

Nicolas Anelka is unlikely to see it this way but a five-match ban and an £80,000 fine for a gesture with undeniable anti-Semitic connotations is nowhere near as severe as it could have been. You have to hope that he has the good sense not to appeal.

There was outrage in some quarters at the Football Association that there was not a steeper ban for Anelka for the "quenelle", nominally in support of his friend the French comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala. This is the Dieudonné who invented the gesture and who has been convicted seven times of anti-Semitism in France and is banned from coming to the UK by the Home Office.

How can Luis Suarez get an eight-game ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra, and Anelka only five for the "quenelle"?

The first thing to say is that it is not the FA which decides the length of the ban. That was determined by the commission and its chairman, the QC Christopher Quinlan. The FA is the prosecution in this case, as it is in all disciplinary matters, and it is down to the FA's counsel to make the charges stick.

In the end it was the independent regulatory commission which accepted that Anelka was not, in its words "an anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the 'quenelle'." In short, it accepted that he did not recognise the full offence of the gesture – and in doing so ensured that his punishment would be that much less severe.

That is the part of the process that is hardest to understand, especially given that Anelka can have hardly failed to have understood the controversy that Dieudonné had brought upon himself in France around the time the player made the gesture at West Ham, on 28 December. Indeed, he later said he did it in support of a man who at that time was having his shows closed down by the French government.

Yet in spite of the evidence that demonstrated fairly clearly the offensive nature of the gesture, there were many obstacles to a successful conviction. There was a great deal of concern at the FA about whether it could even secure a guilty verdict for Anelka, an outcome it judged as crucial.

Although there are reprehensible associations made between the "quenelle" and anti-Semitism, no one in France has ever been convicted for making the gesture. Equally, a prominent member of the Jewish community in France played down its significance in the aftermath of Anelka performing it. Although the same individual later backtracked, his words were seized on by Anelka in his only public statement on the matter.

None of this was likely to help the FA's cause when it spent three days in front of Quinlan and his commission at the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire. Yet the organisation got the guilty verdict it had hoped for. West Bromwich Albion have suspended Anelka pending the decision over the appeal, although they can hardly be said to have led from the front on this issue.

If you wanted the most telling verdict on the decision, it came from prominent Jewish groups in the UK, some of which had been consulted by the FA over the process. Each one, from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, to the Community Security Trust, Jewish Leadership Council and Maccabi GB said variously that the verdict delivered a "strong message" and was a "welcome outcome".

For the FA, plunging into difficult territory encompassing modern French political and cultural sensibilities, on an issue that not even the French government had ever legislated, this was a fiendishly difficult case. It was not a ban to beat all others in length, but it was at least a ban and a message that this insidious gesture will not be tolerated. Which, given the case's complexities, the FA regards as a victory.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us