Nicolas Anelka’s ’quenelle’ gesture did contain “a reference to anti-Semitism”, according to the independent regulatory commission that imposed a five-match ban on the French striker.
However, the commission’s written reasons state the three-man panel was not satisfied that Anelka intended to “express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle” when he made the salute as a goal celebration against West Ham on December 28.
The reasons also reveal that the Football Association had argued for a more severe sanction than the minimum five-match ban for the West Brom player.
Anelka and the FA have seven days in which to appeal but it is expected neither party will do so.
It comes after the punishment was condemned by an MP as “pathetically spineless”.
The commission said Anelka’s quenelle “did contain a reference to anti-Semitism” in that it is strongly associated with his friend, the French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who has been convicted seven times of anti-Semitic crimes.
“When Nicolas Anelka performed the quenelle on the 28 December 2013, it had that association; it was strongly associated with and contained a reference to anti-Semitism,” said the commission.
Anelka said himself he made the quenelle as a gesture of solidarity with Dieudonne but denied he knew it had any anti-Semitic connotations.
The 34-year-old did, however, admit attending a Dieudonne performance in Paris that contained numerous anti-Jewish jokes.
The commission were also told of photographs of Dieudonne supporters using the quenelle at locations with “strong Jewish connections, for example Auschwitz, the Wailing Wall, Holocaust and deportation memorials in Paris and a Jewish school in Toulouse where, in 2012, a Rabbi and three Jewish children were shot dead”.
In his defence, Anelka had said some of Dieudonne’s humour was “lost in translation” and that he did not accept he was anti-Semitic. Anelka added that he knew nothing of “Jewish stories” and denied knowing that the quenelle was an anti-Semitic gesture.
In deciding on the five-match ban, the commission ruled against the FA’s claim that the minimum sanction should only be given to those who had pleaded guilty, because no such clause is contained in their rules.
“It would have been simple for the FA to state that in the rules if that is what it intended,” says the ruling.
It also compared the case with Luis Suarez’s eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra, and pointed out the Liverpool striker did so on at least five occasions while Anelka’s was a one-off action.
John Terry’s four-match ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand was also looked at by the commission.
It added: “[Suarez’s] eight-match suspension was imposed for conduct with five identified aggravating factors including the repeated use of the word ”negro“ or ”negros“. In our view that was clearly a more serious example of an ’Aggravated Breach’ than the [Anelka] instant case.
“Similarly, when Terry was decided there was no mandatory entry point; He was suspended for four matches for insulting (once) an opponent.”
Earlier, Labour MP John Cryer had called for MPs to be given the chance to debate racism and anti-Semitism.
The Leyton and Wanstead MP told the House of Commons: “Could we have a debate on racism and in particular anti-Semitism? I am thinking of the repellent behaviour of Nicolas Anelka and the pathetically spineless response of the Football Association, which reminds us that racism is always there and will always require vigilance.”