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West Brom suspend Nicolas Anelka after five-match ban over 'quenelle' gesture

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West Bromwich Albion have suspended striker Nicolas Anelka after he was banned for five matches over his 'quenelle' goal celebration.

Anelka was found guilty of making an anti-Semitic gesture and handed a five-game ban and fined £80,000 by an independent commission convened by the FA.

The commission said the Baggies forward was not anti-Semitic and did not mean to cause offence with his 'quenelle' goal celebration at West Ham on December 28.

But the club have suspended the former France international, saying it could not ignore the offence caused and potential damage to the club's reputation.

A Baggies statement said: "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."

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The independent panel sat for three days at The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire and delivered its verdict yesterday.

Anelka, aged 34, could still appeal after being found guilty of an 'aggravated breach' of FA Rule E3.

He has also been ordered to attend an education course.

The panel was chaired by independent counsel Christopher Quinlan QC.

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Anelka had denied an FA charge which said he "made a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper" and that "the misconduct was an 'aggravated breach' as defined by FA Rule E3(2) in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief."

The commission found Anelka guilty of the charge but its findings, published on the FA website, said: "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."

Anelka will receive the full written judgement in the next few days, after which he has seven days to appeal.

Albion's next five games are against Manchester United, Swansea, Hull, Cardiff and Norwich.

A five-game ban was the minimum punishment under the FA's new anti-discrimination rules. The ban could have been for up to 10 matches. The FA could also appeal and request a more severe punishment.

Anelka had consistently denied he that his gesture was intended to be anti-Semitic but admitted he was supporting his friend, controversial stand-up comedian Dieudonne, who has been banned from performing in some French cities over claims of anti-Semitism.

The hearing heard from two expert witnesses while Anelka gave evidence in his own defence.

Reaction to the decision on Twitter.

Anelka had consistently denied he that his gesture was intended to be anti-Semitic but admitted he was supporting his friend, controversial stand-up comedian Dieudonne, who has been banned from performing in some French cities over claims of anti-Semitism.

The hearing heard from two expert witnesses while Anelka gave evidence in his own defence.

Albion will now conclude their own club enquiry and decide on a punishment for the former France international.

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