Property website Zoopla has dropped its sponsorship of West Bromwich Albion over the storm surrounding French striker Nicolas Anelka’s quenelle salute at a Premier League match, a gesture widely regarded as an expression of anti-semitism.
Zoopla, which has sponsored the Premier League club since the 2012-13 season, said the sponsorship would end after the current season ends in May. The deal is thought to have been worth about £3m to the Midlands club.
In a statement, the company said: “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.”
Anelka made the straight-armed gesture, regarded as an inverted Nazi salute, after scoring in the 3-3 draw at West Ham United on December 28.
The Football Association has launched an investigation, but the club has continued to pick Anelka and he is likely to play in Albion’s home game on Monday night.
The quenelle gesture was created by Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a French comedian known for his provocative views at the Holocaust, who has been convicted for anti-semitism.
Anelka’s gesture attracted widespread criticism in France, where Dieudonné attracts support from disaffected groups. The French government wants local officials to stop his national tour on public order grounds.
Lawrence Hall of 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.”
The club said it already knew the Zoopla sponsorship could finish at the end of the season “and has been planning accordingly”.
Previously, it said the player had denied intending to cause offence, and that he performed the gesture to dedicate his goal to a friend. He agreed not to perform the gesture again.
The FA is being advised by “an expert regarding the salient issues related to the gesture”.
Zoopla, founded by Alex Chesterman, is a rival to Rightmove in the online property website sector, and is weighing a flotation. Albion’s long-time owner is former investment banker Jeremy Peace.
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