The Football Association has banned Nicolas Anelka for five games after his controversial “quenelle” gesture against West Ham United two months ago.
The former France international was charged last month under the Football Association's new anti-discrimination rules and after a three-day hearing was found guilty of an aggravated breach of FA Rule E3 by an independent disciplinary commission.
The 34-year-old, who denied the charges, has also been fined 80,000 pounds and ordered to complete a compulsory education course. He has seven days to lodge an appeal.
Anelka performed the controversial celebration, which is alleged to carry anti-Semitic connotations, during his side’s 3-3 draw with West Ham on Dec. 28. He was charged with making a gesture that was judged to be “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper.”
The FA has published a summary of the decision on its official website.
The statement from the FA read: "An independent regulatory commission has found an aggravated breach of FA rule E3 against Nicolas Anelka proven and has issued a five-match suspension and a fine of 80,000 pounds, pending appeal.
"So far as the basis for our finding on Charge 2 is concerned, we did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle."
A statement from Anelka's legal advisers, Brown Rudnick LLP, read: "Nicolas Anelka is pleased that the FA regulatory commission has found him not to be an anti-Semite and that he did not intend to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle gesture.
"He is now waiting to receive the commission's full reasons for their decision before considering whether or not to appeal. Nicolas Anelka has been advised not to make any further comment while the proceedings are ongoing."
West Brom have now suspended Anelka pending an internal investigation, and there remains a possibility that the Baggies could choose to sack the player. If that were to happen, Anelka may opt to retire from football.
A statement on their official website read: "West Bromwich Albion notes that both charges were proven against Nicolas Anelka at an FA hearing in relation to a gesture he made during the 3-3 draw at West Ham on December 28.
"The club cooperated fully with the FA’s investigation and has allowed due process to take place without prejudicing the outcome of the player’s hearing. Both the player and club are now awaiting the written reasons for the panel’s decision, upon the receipt of which the player will have seven days to decide whether to exercise his right of appeal.
"West Bromwich Albion treats very seriously any such allegation which includes any reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion and/or belief. Upon both charges being proven, the Club has suspended Nicolas Anelka pending the conclusion of the FA’s disciplinary process and the club’s own internal investigation.
"The club acknowledges that the FA panel ‘did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle’. However, the club cannot ignore the offence that his actions have caused, particularly to the Jewish community, nor the potential damage to the club’s reputation.
"The club will make no further comment until the FA’s disciplinary process and its own internal investigation have been completed."
Anelka, who requested a personal hearing, has repeatedly denied the salute was anti-Semitic and insisted it was merely a tribute to his friend, French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who invented the gesture. He wrote on Facebook last month that he felt the FA should “remove the charges it has levelled” because the expert it had consulted was not “French, living in France” and so did not have “an accurate knowledge of [his] actions.”
The striker has not appeared for West Brom since bring substituted with a shin injury during the 4-3 defeat to Aston Villa on Jan. 29.
UEFA is currently dealing with a similar case after Belgian player Omar Rahou allegedly made a “quenelle” gesture in a European futsal championship last month.
The European governing body’s president, the Frenchman Michel Platini, has said his organisation will take “firm decisions on that -- zero tolerance,” adding: “Any display of racism on a UEFA pitch will be sanctioned and penalised.”