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SBD Global/January 20, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

West Brom Sponsor Zoopla Threatens To Ax Deal Over Controversial Anelka Salute

West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka makes a controversial 'quenelle' gesture on Dec. 28.
Property website Zoopla is "threatening to axe its multi-million pound shirt deal" with EPL West Brom if striker Nicolas Anelka continues to play for the club "over fears the brand’s Jewish roots are being tarnished by the worsening furore around his controversial ‘quenelle’ goal celebration," according to Sebastian Joseph of MARKETING WEEK. Zoopla warned West Brom it "will axe the tie-up with immediate effect" if Anelka plays against Everton on Monday. Zoopla, which is co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, is thought "to have delivered the ultimatum earlier this week claiming it does not want to be associated with the gesture because it has anti-Semitic connotations." It "is likely" Anelka will play next week. Citing a source close to the matter, the club "is not prepared to let sponsors dictate its team selection." West Brom is "believed to have already made early inquires into securing a temporary sponsor for the remainder of the season" should Zoopla act on its threat. The property firm’s two-year deal with the club ends this season and the club is "confident" of being able to find a new long-term backer given the league's "growing popularity" (MARKETING WEEK, 1/17). The sponsorship deal was valued at $4.3M (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).

UNDER INVESTIGATION: REUTERS' Mike Collett reported Anelka "is being investigated" by the FA for "making the gesture" after scoring the first of his two goals in a 3-3 draw at West Ham in the league on Dec. 28. The quenelle, invented by French comedian Dieudonne, "has drawn widespread condemnation in Anelka's homeland" and from anti-racist and Jewish groups in England who have "demanded the player be banned." Anelka has played in every league game since making the alleged gesture. He "promised no repeat but did not apologise for his actions." Zoopla "has made no public comment on the issue" (REUTERS, 1/18). The BBC reported the FA is "expected to announce the result of its investigation" early this week. The FA has brought in an ''expert regarding the salient issues related to the gesture." There "is a possibility he could be handed a lengthy ban" should he be found guilty (BBC, 1/19). A West Brom spokesperson said, "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" (London INDEPENDENT, 1/17).

SETTING PRECEDENT: In London, John Percy noted it is "not the first time a Premier League sponsor has become involved with contentious issues surrounding a club’s players." Two years ago, Standard Chartered "criticised Liverpool forward Luis Suárez for refusing to shake the hand" of ManU defender Patrice Evra. And in '11, Chelsea captain John Terry’s main sponsor Umbro "also distanced itself" by removing all pictures of him from its website after he "was charged for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand" (TELEGRAPH, 1/17).
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