Sponsors ditch West Brom over Anelka gesture

 
Frank Dalleres
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PROPERTY website Zoopla has taken the extraordinary step of ending its sponsorship of West Brom following the row over striker Nicolas Anelka’s controversial “quenelle” celebration.

Anelka’s gesture, which has been associated with anti-Semitism, is believed to have upset Zoopla’s Jewish co-owner Alex Chesterton, and the company yesterday said it would not renew its £1.5m per season deal with the Premier League club when it expires in the summer.

“In recent weeks we have decided to re-evaluate this sponsorship and as a result we will focus our attention on other marketing activities from the end of the season,” a spokesman said.

Matters could yet get worse for Anelka today, with the Football Association set to conclude its own investigation into the incident, which took place in last month’s 3-3 draw at West Ham. If found guilty of racially aggravated misconduct, the Frenchman faces a ban of at least five matches.

Anelka, 34, who played in last night’s 1-1 draw against Everton, has insisted he is neither racist nor anti-Semitic and considers the gesture – hallmark of French performer Dieudonne – to be merely anti-establishment, but has agreed not to repeat it.

West Brom had acknowledged the incident “caused offence in some quarters” but rejected calls to drop Anelka. Last night the Midlands club confirmed that Zoopla had given notice in writing.

Sponsors rarely intervene in on-field matters, though Standard Chartered did voice its disapproval in 2012 when Liverpool’s Luis Suarez refused to shake the hand of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, a player he had been found guilty of racially abusing.

THE QUENELLE

■ The gesture is made by placing the left hand on the right upper arm with the right palm facing down

■ It is the trademark of controversial French comedian Dieudonne, who is known for his anti-Zionist views

■ Dieudonne says it is anti-establishment but critics insist it is anti-Semitic and imitates a Nazi salute