Property website Zoopla announced it is to end its sponsorship deal with West Bromwich Albion Football Club at the end of the season following on from Nicolas Anelka’s ‘quenelle’ gesture which he performed after scoring in a game against West Ham last month.
The gesture is said to be an inverted Nazi salute that has anti-Semitic connotations after its use by controversial French comedian Dieudonne but was apparently a show of solidarity for the comedian, who Anelka claims is a friend and who is currently being prosecuted for anti-Semitism by the French government.
Dieudonné and many of his admirers, ranging from the far left to the far right, insist that it is merely an “anti-establishment gesture”, surviving from his “anti-Zionist” campaign in 2009. However, critics say that it is a calculated, anti-Semitic provocation and Dieudonné has repeatedly come under fire in his native France, accumulating six convictions for hate speech against Jews.
Zoopla is owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, who quite rightly was disturbed when West Brom continued to pick Anelka even after the incident. In fact, soon after the announcement came, Sky sources stated Anelka was due to play again on Monday night.
Zoopla’s decision is a big blow for the team as the sponsorship deal had been the biggest in West Brom’s history. The sponsorship was due to run out this summer anyway but Zoopla are clearly making a point by making the announcement now.
The firm have definitely benefited through this decision with an influx of publicity. They have shown that they stand for something and that they are a company with principles. This enhanced reputation has spread far and wide through their decision to withdraw sponsorship.
The Anelka incident has been a huge story in France and Anelka has been subject to a huge amount of criticism. After the West Ham match France’s Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron tweeted: “Anelka’s gesture is a shocking provocation, sickening. There’s no place for anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred on the football field.” Clearly it is not just Zoopla who believed Anelka had pushed the boundaries too far.
Whereas West Brom are reluctant to set a controversial precedent by allowing a sponsor to influence the team selection, Zoopla in turn saw no reason why they should continue to endorse a team who were seemingly tolerating anti-Semitic behaviour. They have won publicity for having moral conviction and there few better reasons for 15 minutes in the media spotlight.