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
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
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

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star