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
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
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

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'