The Football Association’s lack of transparency in investigating Nicolas Anelka’s controversial quenelle gesture has shaken the Community Security Trust’s confidence in the process, it has revealed.
Football’s governing body charged the West Bromwich Albion stiker on Tuesday for his use of the antisemitic salute. In response, Anelka said he was “neither antisemitic or racist” and would contest the charge.
But Mark Gardner, communications director of CST, which monitors antisemitism, said he was concerned by the lack of openness in the FA’s process — despite its close work with experts and Jewish communal organisations.
He said: “By lack of transparency I mean that it is not even clear if information supplied by CST and the Board of Deputies may be subject to cross-examination by Anelka’s defence lawyer, should it come to that.”
The FA said the gesture, made in a game against West Ham last month, was “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper”.
It said Anelka was guilty of an “aggravated breach” of the FA’s E3 rule because the quenelle “included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief”.
Despite charging the Frenchman, the FA has still refused to provide details on what form its investigation took, who was the “expert” it appointed to advise investigators, or who will sit on the independent disciplinary panel that will now hear Anelka’s challenge.
Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush said the FA had made the “correct decision” to charge Anelka.
“The Board has given the community’s response [to this issue] and in formulating it, it has extensively consulted other Jewish bodies including CST, Maccabi GB and the Jewish Leadership Council to reach a joint view,” he said.
Simon Johnson, interim JLC chief executive and the man who led the FA’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup, called on the community to support the FA and be patient.
“We shouldn’t be concerned about a quick outcome, we should be concerned about the right outcome,” he said.
Maccabi GB chief executive Martin Berliner said he was disappointed by the length of time the investigation had taken, but thought it was important for the FA to be “thorough”.
“It wasn’t ideal but we’ve got there now,” he said.
Meanwhile Everton striker Romelu Lukaku expressed his support and admiration for Anelka as his “idol” during an interview with Sky Sports News this week.
“He shouldn’t be banned for that gesture,” the player said. “He just supported a stand-up comedian in France, so we don’t have to make such a big deal about it.”
The interview was uploaded to Everton’s website but has since been removed by the club. It is not thought that any disciplinary action will be taken against the player.
Hull City said it would not take action against Ivorian striker Yannick Sagbo — who had also pledged support for Anelka — until the FA’s case was completed.
Property company Zoopla, West Brom’s shirt sponsor, announced on Monday that it would cancel its deal with the club at the end of the season. Other deals the club has with shipping firm FCL Global Forwarding, the University of Wolverhampton, and Holler Watches are also thought to be under threat.
A second sponsor, Jack Wolfskin, a German outdoor clothing company, said it also “strongly disapproved” of Anelka’s quenelle and was reviewing its involvement with the Premier League club.
Media reports on Wednesday suggested West Brom would refuse to pay for Anelka’s lawyer if he contested the FA charge.
Anelka made the gesture, a Nazi-style salute, during a Premier League match last December. He claimed that it was a tribute to his friend, the antisemitic comedian, Dieudonné M’bala.
If Anelka’s challenge over the charge is lost, the striker faces the prospect of the minimum five-game ban being increased, possibly to 10 games or more.