West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka faces the prospect of a minimum five-match ban after finally being charged by the Football Association over his controversial “quenelle” goal celebration.
The FA had been investigating the incident after Anelka performed the gesture, which has been described as anti-Semitic by Jewish organisations, after scoring against West Ham United on Dec. 28.
On Tuesday, the FA issued a statement, which read: "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."
Under new FA rules, such aggravated offences carry a minimum five-match ban and possibly a longer suspension.
West Brom have issued a statement in response to the charge, saying: "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 Dec. 28.
"Anelka has received a 34-page document explaining the allegations against him and informing him that he has until 6 p.m. 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."
West Brom's shirt sponsor Zoopla, an online property search engine, said on Monday it would not be renewing its deal at the end of the season because of the incident.
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.
Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, which has expressed frustration over the length of time taken to decide on the case, called for a swift conclusion.
A statement read: "Kick It Out notes the Football Association's announcement to bring a charge to West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka.
"The FA has previously demonstrated its commitment to taking effective and swift action to deal with all forms of abusive conduct in football, and has spent a longer time than desirable in order to give careful consideration to the allegations made in this case.
"Kick It Out awaits Anelka's response to the charge before making any further comment. The campaign hopes that this matter can now be quickly concluded."