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West Brom stand by Anelka despite sponsor snub

21 January 2014, 10:14

London - West Bromwich Albion kept faith with Nicolas Anelka on Monday after losing their main sponsor in the wake of the striker's controversial 'quenelle' gesture.

British media reports suggested property website Zoopla had called on West Brom to drop Anelka for a gesture regarded in some quarters as anti-Semitic when the club played Everton in the Premier League on Monday.

However, the former France striker took the field and made a lively start before, having failed to score, he was substituted shortly after Diego Lugano equalised for West Brom 15 minutes from time in a 1-1 draw at the Midlands club's Hawthorns ground.

New West Brom manager Pepe Mel, who saw the build-up to his first game in charge of the club overshadowed by Zoopla's decision, insisted he'd no problems in working with Anelka.

"I don't know. I am only head coach," Mel told Sky Sports when asked about Anelka's situation.

"He is a good personality. He needs a goal and he will work for me very well," the Spaniard added after a draw that left his side four points above the relegation zone.

Hours before it became clear whether Anelka would play, Zoopla announced they would not be renewing their reported £3 million ($4.9 million) sponsorship, which runs out at the end of this season.

"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," said Lawrence Hall, Zoopla's head of communications.

However, West Brom tried to downplay the impact of Zoopla's move by saying they had long been preparing to seek another sponsor.

"West Bromwich Albion has been fully aware since the sponsorship agreement came into force in June 2012 that its partnership with Zoopla could expire this summer and therefore has been planning accordingly," a club statement said.

"Zoopla has today (Monday) informed the club in writing that it does not wish to extend its sponsorship deal. The club will now actively seek a new official sponsor for next season."

Anelka, 34, sparked a media storm last month when he celebrated the first of his two goals in West Brom's 3-3 league draw at West Ham United by putting one arm across his chest and straightening the other in a gesture interpreted by some as anti-Semitic.

The 'quenelle', popularised by French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, has been described by critics in France as an 'inverted Nazi salute', but Anelka has insisted that it was merely "a dedication" to the comic.

M'bala M'bala, better known simply as Dieudonne, says the gesture is anti-establishment and not anti-Semitic.

Earlier this month, England's governing Football Association (FA) said no decision on whether Anelka would face disciplinary action would be announced until this Monday, January 20, at the earliest, a move which saw the FA criticised by anti-discrimination group Kick it Out for the time it was taking.

With no new announcement forthcoming, UK media reported the FA would publicise its decision on Tuesday.

Under new rules introduced last May, Anelka faces a minimum five-match ban if the FA decides he is guilty of discrimination.

If Anelka is banned, Albion could find themselves without two forwards following Friday's transfer of Shane Long to Premier League rivals Hull City, and with little time to bring in a replacement before the January window shuts.

- Sapa - AFP


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