Ex-FA man says Anelka ban debate is a sideshow

The debate over the length of Nicolas Anelka’s ban for performing an antisemitic gesture during a Premier League football match is “cartoonish”, “bickering” and a “sideshow”.

That is the view of Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, and a former director of corporate affairs at the Football Association.

Mr Johnson said the discussion among the “football community” over whether the player’s five-match ban for using the quenelle — a form of Nazi salute — was too lenient was missing the point.

“The most important thing is the verdict and the fact that Anelka was convicted,” he insisted.

Mr Johnson made his comment after the FA decided not to appeal against the ban — the minimum available — which was imposed on the player by an independent commission earlier this month.

The commission found Anelka guilty of two breaches of FA anti-racism rules. He had denied the charges.

Mr Johnson said: “In my view, as a Jewish community, we have to respect the FA’s decision because we are going to benefit from this outcome for many years. I’ve always thought that this case has always had wider implications than just Nicolas Anelka’s gesture.

“We have now established once and for all that there will be liability in cases of racism and racist gestures however complex the circumstances.”

Last week, the Board of Deputies and Community Security Trust suggested that the ban should have been tougher in line with the regulations of European football body, Uefa, which has a minimum of 10 games.

CST said the FA should review its anti-discrimination rules to make 10 matches the “new standard in tackling abuse”, while Board president Vivian Wineman said “Uefa got it right, the FA got it wrong”.

The FA had decided not to appeal because it felt there was little chance of securing a tougher punishment.

Anelka reacted to the news by announcing on Twitter that he was quitting his club West Bromwich Albion — a move described as “invalid” by the club. West Brom responded by sacking him, citing gross misconduct for his refusal to apologise for making the quenelle and for resigning on social media.

Anelka’s contract with West Brom was due to expire at the end of the season, but he is now unable to play for another team until the transfer window opens again in the summer.

Even if the 35-year old player does find a new team, he will have to contend with a formal request by the FA to international football body, FIFA to extend his ban worldwide. FIFA confirmed that it had been contacted by the FA.

Last updated: 5:45pm, March 20 2014