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Anelka considers FA charge response
West Brom insist striker Nicolas Anelka will remain available for selection while he considers his options after being charged by the Football Association over his controversial 'quenelle' goal celebration.
The Frenchman has until Thursday to respond to the charge for the gesture, which some say is an inverted Nazi salute and has anti-Semitic connotations.
Anelka has been charged with making an improper gesture and that it was an aggravated breach, in that it included "a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief."
Under new FA rules, such aggravated offences carry a minimum five-match ban and possibly a longer suspension.
In a statement West Brom said there would be no action from them until the FA had concluded their disciplinary process.
"West Bromwich Albion has noted The FA's charge against Nicolas Anelka regarding the gesture he made after scoring his first goal against West Ham United on December 28," said the club.
"Anelka has received a 34-page document explaining the allegations against him and informing him that he has until 6pm on Thursday to respond. The player is now considering his options.
"Under FA rules, Anelka 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 enquiry."
The FA said in a statement: "The FA has charged the West Bromwich Albion player Nicolas Anelka following an incident that occurred during the West Ham United versus West Bromwich Albion fixture at the Boleyn Ground on 28 December 2013.
"It is alleged that, in the 40th minute of the fixture, Anelka made a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3.
"It is further alleged that this is an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3, in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief."
West Brom's shirt sponsor Zoopla, an online property search engine which is co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterton, said on Monday it would not be renewing its deal at the end of the season because of the incident.
Anelka has denied the goal celebration was intended to be anti-Semitic and has agreed not to perform the salute again after the club accepted it had caused some offence, but there has been no apology from the player.
He has insisted however that the quenelle was anti-establishment, and a gesture in support of his friend, the controversial French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who has been prosecuted for anti-Semitism and who created the salute.
The FA brought in an academic expert to help decide on whether charges should be brought and has spent several weeks working on the case due to its sensitivity.
A three-man independent regulatory commission will now be appointed to deal with the case - either to decide on the sanction if Anelka admits the charge or to hold a disciplinary hearing if he denies it.
Vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Jonathan Arkush insisted Anelka should be banned for longer than five matches if the FA wanted to send out a significant message.
"The decision to charge the player was obviously the correct one," Arkush, a leading barrister and chair of the Board's defence division responsible for addressing anti-Semitism, told Press Association Sport.
"The FA is taking it seriously and the Board looks to the FA to follow it through.
"The Board itself believe any incident on or off the pitch which has racial connotations should be addressed with zero tolerance.
"I know under the rules that on a first-time offence there is a minimum five-game suspension but I think what he did was sufficiently serious to justify a longer suspension than five matches."
Arkush also criticised Anelka's lack of contrition following the outcry over his gesture.
"He has simply said he wouldn't do it again and that is not good enough," he added.
"He has not indicated one bit of remorse or regret or apologised for his actions."
While pressure groups are calling for a lengthy suspension, Anelka has received support from Everton striker Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgium international, who spent last season on loan from Chelsea at West Brom, played against Anelka in Monday's 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns.
Speaking before details of the FA charge were announced Lukaku told evertontv: "He was my idol as a kid and he still is.
"I don't think he should be banned for that, he was just supporting a comedian in France. We don't have to make such a big deal about it.
"I hope he doesn't get suspended because he is a player people want to play on the pitch."