By Julian Guyer, AFP
LONDON — West Bromwich Albion called Friday on the Football Association to end the lingering uncertainty over Nicolas Anelka following the striker’s controversial “quenelle” goal celebration. The Baggies request for action came as a report on Friday suggested they risked losing a multimillion-pound shirt sponsor because of Anelka’s gesture.
Last week the FA said no decision on whether Anelka would face disciplinary action would be announced until Monday, Jan. 20, at the earliest, a move which saw the English governing body criticized by anti-discrimination group Kick it Out for the time it had taken looking into the incident. If Anelka is banned, Albion could find themselves two forwards down following Friday’s transfer of Shane Long to Premier League rivals Hull, and with little time to bring in a replacement before the January window shuts. “There are investigations ongoing, and while they are we won’t make any comment,” said Albion sporting and technical director Richard Garlick on Friday. However, he added: “People can speculate there is a turn of events where we might be two strikers down.
“It would help everyone for that investigation to be over as soon as possible, and the FA have given their statement about how quickly they will do that,” said Garlick, whose side are currently just three points above the relegation zone. Meanwhile Marketing Week magazine said Albion shirt sponsors Zoopla, a property portal co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, could pull out of the two-year contract as soon as next week should former France striker Anelka play against Everton on Monday because it does not wish to be associated with the ‘quenelle,’ a gesture some people claim is anti-Semitic. But the magazine said “one source close to the matter” had told them it was likely Anelka would face the Merseyside club with West Brom determined not to let sponsors dictate team selection. The Baggies have reportedly made initial inquiries into securing a temporary sponsor for the remainder of the season should Zoopla, whose deal expires at the end of the current campaign, act on its threat, with the source telling Marketing Week the West Midlands club were “confident” of finding alternative long-term backers. Anelka, 34, sparked a media storm last month when he celebrated the first of his two goals in West Brom’s 3-3 Premier League draw at West Ham United by putting one arm across his chest and straightening the other. The gesture, popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, has been described by critics in France as an anti-Semitic “inverted Nazi salute,” but Anelka has insisted that it was merely “a dedication” to the comic. M’bala M’bala, more commonly known merely as Dieudonne, insists it is anti-establishment and not anti-Semitic. Under new anti-discrimination rules introduced last May, Anelka faces a minimum five-match ban if the FA decides he is guilty of discrimination. However, Anelka has since played for the Baggies, while both the club and the FA continue their inquiries into the incident.