West Bromwich Albion have told Nicolas Anelka he will have to pay for his own lawyer if he wants to fight an FA charge for his quenelle gesture.
The French striker is at the centre of a race storm that could yet end with the termination of his contract at the Hawthorns.
Anelka is facing at least a five-match ban after being charged on Monday — it was not officially announced until yesterday — for the gesture that is widely considered, particularly in his native France, as anti-Semitic. West Brom responded to that yesterday by stating that they would conduct their own ‘internal inquiry’ once the FA’s disciplinary process has been concluded.
Anelka has until 6pm tomorrow to respond to the FA and he runs the risk of seeing a suspension extended to eight or even 10 matches if he fights the charge.
Given the expense involved in bringing in a QC of their own as well as a QC to chair the independent three-man commission, the FA would take a dim view of such a challenge when they allege it is ‘an aggravated breach’ of their rules ‘in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief’.
After a meeting with West Brom technical director Richard Garlick yesterday, Anelka was left in no doubt of his employers’ position. While the club insisted that Anelka remain available to new manager Pepe Mel for now, the 34-year-old was told they would not be footing the bill for a top QC if he wants to stick to his stance that his quenelle was not racially motivated but ‘anti-system’.
Sportsmail understands that if he did then fail to avoid a lengthy ban, West Brom might even examine the possibility of ending his £50,000-a-week contract.
Much to the embarrassment of Everton, Anelka was backed by a player he faced at the Hawthorns on Monday night.
Romelu Lukaku, the Everton striker on loan from Chelsea, gave an interview after the match stating he ‘shouldn’t be banned for that’. His comments were aired on Everton’s official website, before the video was later removed by club officials.
Everton director of communications Alan Myers said: ‘It was Romelu’s opinion. It is not the opinion of the club. As soon as we saw the comments, we removed them to minimise any offence that may have been caused.’
Since making the gesture against West Ham on December 28, Anelka has shown no contrition. On the contrary, he has argued what he did was not anti-Semitic.
But the FA consulted experts before presenting their case yesterday and the fact that the comedian Anelka was said to be supporting — Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala — has been prosecuted for anti-Semitism and banned from performing in a number of major cities in France seriously undermines his argument.
Last night pressure groups in the UK called for Anelka to face more than a five-match ban.
Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: ‘He has not indicated one bit of remorse. He simply said he wouldn’t do it again and that is not good enough.’
Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust which advises the Jewish community on security and anti-Semitism, said: ‘Anelka’s action risks the quenelle being taken up by actual anti-Semites and used against British Jews. The FA should throw the book at him.’
The club’s shirt sponsor Zoopla said on Monday they would not be renewing their deal at the end of the season because of the incident. Zoopla Property Group Ltd’s shareholders include DMG Media, a division of DMGT plc, which owns the Daily Mail and MailOnline.
In a statement yesterday, West Brom said: ‘Anelka has received a 34-page document explaining the allegations. He is now considering his options. He remains available for first-team selection until the FA’s disciplinary process has reached its conclusion. Following this, the club will conclude its own internal inquiry.’
Anelka will be the first player held to account under new guidelines brought in after the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra affair.
Suarez did receive legal representation provided by Liverpool but West Brom have no desire to be anything like as generous.– Daily Mail