Nicolas Anelka was found guilty by the Football Association regulatory commission of making an abusive, insulting and improper gesture when using the quenelle gesture in Premier League match.
This act of misconduct also amounted to an aggravated breach of FA rules because it involved a reference to ethnic origin or race.
Anelka was given the mandatory minimum five-match ban; fined £80,000; ordered to pay the full costs of the hearing; and is required to attend an education programme.
The FA had pressed the commission to hand Anelka a longer ban because he had not admitted the breach. The FA argued that he is a high-profile player, that his conduct undermined the FA’s anti-racism campaign, and damaged the reputation of English football.
Why then did the commission conclude that Anelka’s antisemitic gesture warranted a lesser sanction than the eight-match ban Luis Suarez received for racial abuse of the Manchester United player Patrice Evra in 2011?
In Suarez’s case, five aggravating factors were found, including his previous conduct and the repeated use of the word "negro" when abusing Evra.
In contrast, the commission noted that this was Anelka’s first offence; his use of the quenelle was on a single occasion; it was not made to any person in particular and that there was no finding that he was antisemitic or that he intended to promote antisemitism.
What is clear from the evidence is that the use of the quenelle had by the date of the match become associated [in France at least] with an antisemitic meaning, as developed by the comedian Dieudonne, a friend of Anelka.
Observers may say with some justification that, when making a racist gesture, it matters not whether it can be proved you are, in fact, a racist; the gesture itself is more than sufficient.
Equally no account seems to have been given to the wider offence that will have been taken by members of the public. Anelka can count himself very fortunate.
Julian Pike is head of sports at solicitors, Farrer & Co