It should be relatively easy for the FA to deal with Nicolas Anelka. He has knowingly, deliberately and provocatively made an antisemitic gesture during a match. Ignore the nonsense being put about that there is any ambiguity to the ‘quenelle’ — that it is ‘anti-establishment’ rather than antisemitic. That is the whole point — it emanates from Dieudonne, a rabid antisemite who says that ‘the Jews’ form the establishment in France and so have to be taken on.
As if that was not bad enough, Anelka has refused to show the least remorse or offer any explanation — let alone apology — beyond the claim that he was simply showing solidarity with his friend, Dieudonne. It is as if he had said that Nick Griffin was a friend and in making a reverse Nazi salute he was simply showing solidarity. And that is his defence!
So there is really very little for the FA to think about. There is no room for debate, as there often is with violent conduct, about what actually happened. Anelka made the salute, which is unambiguous in meaning. That is the be all and end all of the matter. Anything less than the severest possible punishment will show that the FA thinks a public display of antisemitism by players is a relatively insignificant offence.
As for West Bromwich Albion: no one would expect Keith Downing, the manager, to have known about the quenelle before Sunday. But instead of saying nothing or bothering to find out about the salute before opening his mouth, he chose to speak from total ignorance, attacking all criticism of Anelka as “absolute rubbish really”.
Clearly Anelka is the real villain of the piece. But the club’s chairman, Jeremy Peace, is pushing him a close second. Mr Peace has refused to utter a word of criticism. The club has issued two statements, neither of which offer any apology or demonstrate any concern that a WBA player has given a form of Nazi salute.
Worse, Mr Peace insists that there is no reason at all why Anelka should not be available for selection. Were it not entirely predictable that a football club chairman should act with crass indifference to such appalling behaviour from a player, it would be almost as shocking.