West Brom keep faith with Anelka
7:34pm Monday 20th January 2014 in © Press Association 2014
West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka was named in the starting line-up for the Barclays Premier League match at home to Everton despite the ongoing controversy over his 'quenelle' goal celebration.
Earlier the club's shirt sponsors Zoopla announced, in the wake of the furore generated by the celebration, it will not seek to renew its backing of the club when its current £3million two-year deal expires at the end of the season.
Anelka's actions are being investigated by the Football Association and it had been reported that Zoopla was unhappy about Anelka's continuing presence in the team while the matter was being looked into.
Anelka's 'quenelle' gesture, which he performed after scoring at West Ham on December 28, sparked controversy, particularly in his native France, where it has been declared as anti-Semitic and racist.
It is understood the FA could reach a conclusion this week, probably as early as Tuesday.
But with concern about the issue, Zoopla, which is co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterton, has decided to end its support.
A statement from the company read: "Zoopla has been reviewing its position over the past few weeks in light of the actions of striker, Nicolas Anelka, during the match against West Ham over the Christmas period and has decided to focus its attention on other marketing activities after this season.''
Lawrence Hall, head of communications for Zoopla, said: ''Through our sponsorship of West Bromwich Albion we are pleased to have supported the local community and charities.
"In recent weeks, however, 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."
West Brom's response to Zoopla's announcement played down significance of the news there would be no extension.
"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," said a statement.
"Zoopla has today 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 denied he was being anti-Semitic or racist by celebrating in such a way and claimed he did it in support of his friend Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, a controversial anti-establishment comedian.
The 34-year-old did promise not to repeat the gesture.
Since beginning its investigation, the FA has made no comment other than to state an independent expert has been used during the probe.
Anelka could face a ban if deemed to be guilty of breaching the FA's anti-racism rules.
Like the rest of his team-mates, Anelka was wearing the sponsor's branding on his West Brom shirt as the match began.
Lord Ouseley, chairman of the anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, has condemned what he considers a culture within football that sees clubs leave decisions on morality to others.
"We have clubs who will not take responsibility, they always hide behind the FA," Lord Ouseley told BBC Radio Five Live.
He added: "The club has a responsibility to its fans, to the public, because we have laws and we have standards and we have rules and regulations about how players conduct themselves, and that's the standard that we need to apply."
Kick It Out has made no secret of its frustration at the time the FA has taken to deliberate on the Anelka issue.
Lord Ouseley suggested clubs should be proactive rather than leaving it up to the authorities to determine whether an act has caused offence and an apology is required.
He added: "I know its a bit wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed, but it seems as though we're so dismissive, we're just saying, 'No, our player is okay'. Until the FA adjudicates - and it could be several years from now - he will go on unaffected and we cannot go on setting that sort of standards."