West Bromwich Albion forward Nicolas Anelka says his controversial quenelle gesture was a tribute to a friend. File picture: Darren Staples

LONDON) - West Bromwich Albion forward Nicolas Anelka has been banned for five matches and fined 80 000 pounds ($133,400) for making an alleged anti-Semitic gesture in a match in December, the Football Association said on Thursday.

The Frenchman, who made a “quenelle” salute after scoring in a 3-3 draw against West Ham United on Dec. 28, has also been ordered to complete a compulsory education course.

“An Independent Regulatory Commission has found an aggravated breach of FA Rule E3 against Nicolas Anelka proven and has issued a five-match suspension and a fine of 80 000 pounds, pending appeal,” the FA said in a statement.

The punishment is suspended until the outcome of any appeal or until the player informs the FA of his decision not to appeal.

The FA found Anelka guilty of making a gesture that “was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper.”

They also found it to be an “aggravated breach” in that it included “a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.”

The FA added in their statement, however, that they “did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an Anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote Anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle.”

Anelka had denied he was anti-Semitic or racist and claimed the gesture, which has been described as an inverted Nazi salute, was a tribute to his French comedian friend Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala who invented it.

Premier League West Brom are yet to comment on the punishment but the gesture has already had repercussions for the club.

Zoopla, a property market search engine co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, has said it would not renew its three million pounds ($4.93 million) West Brom shirt sponsorship deal after this season because of Anelka's actions.