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Jan 18, 2014

'WBA may lose Zoopla deal over Anelka'

West Bromwich Albion are reported to be facing the prospect of losing their sponsorship deal with Zoopla over Nicolas Anelka's "quenelle" gesture.

Nicolas Anelka celebrates after scoring at West Ham with a controversial 'quenelle' gesture, which is alleged to be anti-Semitic.
Nicolas Anelka is under investigation by the FA for the gesture.

The club are believed to be searching for a short-term shirt sponsor for the remainder of the season as a precaution after Zoopla co-owner Alex Chesterman demanded that West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace drop Anelka or risk losing the deal he signed in 2012.

Anelka is under investigation by the Football Association after his controversial goal celebration, which has been described as anti-Semitic by Jewish organisations.

Zoopla's head of communications, Lawrence Hall, declined to comment, saying only: “We are not commenting at this stage.”

However, Jewish businessman Chesterman, who co-owns the property website, is understood to have been angered by Albion's decision to keep selecting Anelka while the FA continues its inquiry into his actions.

Anelka has featured in every game since he made the gesture against West Ham United in December, but Chesterman is now threatening drastic action if the striker is selected by new head coach Pepe Mel for Monday's meeting with Everton at the Hawthorns.

The forward is expected to discover the outcome of the FA’s investigation early next week and, if he is found guilty, he could be banned for a minimum of five games, ruling him out until March, under new anti-racism rules.

Zoopla's existing agreement expires at the end of the season and it has refused to comment publicly on the situation, while Albion have maintained their stance that they cannot act until the findings of the FA's investigation.

A spokesman from West Brom said: "West Bromwich Albion will be making no further comment until the Football Association has concluded its investigation and the club its own internal inquiry into the matter.”

Albion have been heavily criticised in several quarters for their decision to stand by Anelka. The Jewish Chronicle newspaper has issued a scathing assessment on the actions of both West Brom and the FA for allowing the matter to drag on over three weeks.

Anti-racism campaign group Kick It Out has also expressed frustration with the timescale, but the FA insists it has to ensure that the investigation is legally watertight.

West Brom expect a decision after Monday night's game and face the prospect of losing two strikers in five days after the seven million pound sale of Shane Long to Hull City was completed.

Mel has already insisted he would like to bring in reinforcements before the January transfer window closes and is looking at short-term deals, loans or free transfers, but the longer the situation with Anelka drags on the less time he will have to act this month.

Richard Garlick, the club’s sporting and technical director, said: "It would help everyone for that investigation to be over as soon as possible. The FA have given their statement about how quickly they will do that.

"People can speculate that there is a turn of events where we might be two strikers down. There are investigations ongoing. While they are ongoing we won’t make any comment.”

"Our investigation is ongoing and so is the FA’s investigation. While they are ongoing we won’t make any comment."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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