Nicolas Anelka's disciplinary hearing over his alleged anti-Semitic gesture is unlikely to take place until the end of February, it has emerged.
The West Brom striker has been charged by the Football Association with an aggravated offence following his quenelle goal celebration against West Ham on Dec. 28.
The 34-year-old has denied the charge and requested a personal hearing, but that is not not likely to be held for a month, according to sources close to the case.
The length of time the case has taken has already prompted criticism from anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, which has expressed its “frustration.”
However, the Anelka case is comparable with the racist abuse charges that were brought against Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Chelsea's John Terry, and in both of those cases there was a space of several weeks between the players denying the charge and the hearing taking place.
That is expected to be a similar scenario with French striker Anelka, who was this week presented with a 34-page document outlining the details of the charge.
The FA will appoint a three-person independent regulatory commission to hear the case, and as it has taken more than three weeks to bring the charge, Anelka's legal team will be permitted a similar length of time to construct his defence.
A further week to allow for administrative details to be organised, plus legal arguments between both sides' barristers, means that the end of February looks the likely time-scale for the hearing to start.
On Wednesday, Anelka asked the FA to drop the charge, stating he was “neither anti-Semitic, nor racist.”
The former Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Liverpool forward faces a minimum five-match ban if the charge is proved, and probably longer.
West Brom have asked Anelka not to repeat the celebration but will continue to select him for the team. Anelka made the gesture, described by some as an inverted Nazi salute, after scoring in the 3-3 draw at Upton Park.
Afterwards, France's sports minister Valerie Fourneyron branded the salute as “disgusting.” The player, however, has insisted it was purely as a show of support for the creator of the quenelle, his friend the controversial French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, who has been prosecuted for anti-Semitism.