One of the shirt sponsors of the West Bromwich Albion soccer team has threatened to withdraw from a multi-million pound deal because of Nicolas Anelka's 'quenelle' goal celebration, AFP reported Saturday, citing the British Marketing Week magazine.
The magazine, citing sources, said that Zoopla, a property portal co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, could pull out of the two-year contract as soon as next week should Anelka play against Everton on Monday because it does not wish to be associated with a gesture some people claim is anti-Semitic.
Anelka caused outrage last month after he used what appeared to be the ‘quenelle’ reverse Nazi salute after scoring a goal in a game in Britain against West Ham United.
Marketing Week said "one source close to the matter" had told them it was likely Anelka would face the Merseyside club in next week's Premier League match, despite Zoopla’s threats to cancel the contract, since West Brom is determined not to let sponsors dictate team selection.
The team has reportedly made initial inquiries into securing a temporary sponsor for the remainder of the season should Zoopla, whose deal expires at the end of the current campaign, act on its threat, with the source telling Marketing Week the club was "confident" of finding alternative long-term backers.
Anelka’s gesture was popularized by anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, but Anelka has insisted that it was merely "a dedication" to the comic. He also insisted following the incident that he was not anti-Semitic.
Under new anti-discrimination rules introduced last May, Anelka faces a minimum five-match ban if the FA decides he is guilty of discrimination.
However, Anelka has since played for the team, while both the club and England's governing Football Association continue their inquiries into the incident, according to AFP.
A club spokesman was quoted as having told Marketing Week, "West Bromwich Albion will be making no further comment until the Football Association has concluded its investigation, and the club its own internal enquiry, into the matter."
The magazine added Zoopla did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
In the aftermath of the Anelka incident, France banned Dieudonne’s controversial show over its anti-Semitic slant.
Dieudonne has been at the heart of a furor over sketches widely viewed as anti-Semitic that prompted local authorities to block shows in his nationwide "The Wall" tour at the request of Interior Minister Manuel Valls. The ban was also backed by French President Francois Hollande.
He tried to challenge the individual bans in court but failed, deciding instead to circumvent the ban by presenting an alternate performance called "Asu Zoa" focused on Africa.