Sack Anelka or lose shirt deal, sponsor warns Baggies
West Bromwich Albion's sponsor Zoopla last night warned the club to axe Nicolas Anelka or risk the prospect of their lucrative shirt deal being scrapped.
Zoopla, a property and house prices website company, have delivered an ultimatum to Albion by threatening to pull out of their contract if Anelka plays in the Premier League game against Everton at the Hawthorns on Monday night.
Anelka is under investigation by the Football Association and facing a potentially lengthy suspension after his controversial 'quenelle' goal celebration, that has been described as anti-Semitic by Jewish organisations.
The former France international is expected to discover the outcome of the FA's investigation early next week and if he is found guilty he could face a minimum five-game ban, ruling him out until March, under new anti-racism rules.
Zoopla are co-owned by Alex Chesterman, a Jewish businessman, and they are understood to have been left stunned by Albion's decision to keep Anelka in the team while the investigation is ongoing.
The Midlanders are believed to already be considering potential short-term replacements for sponsors.
A spokesman from West Brom 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."
It is not the first time a Premier League sponsor has become involved with contentious issues surrounding club's players.
Two years ago Standard Chartered, the multinational banking and financial services company, criticised Liverpool forward Luis Suarez for refusing to shake the hand of Patrice Evra, the Manchester United defender.
And in 2011 John Terry's main sponsor Umbro also distanced themselves from the Chelsea captain by removing all pictures of him from their website after he was charged for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.
It is three weeks since Anelka's gesture after his goal against West Ham and the FA has been accused of dragging its heels, though sources insist the delay is due to their determination for the investigation to be legally watertight.
West Brom are anxiously awaiting the results and could face the difficult scenario of losing two forwards in less than a week, after the £7m sale of Shane Long to Hull City was completed yesterday.
Richard Garlick, the club's sporting and technical director, said: "It would help everyone for that investigation to be over as soon as possible." (© Daily Telegraph, London)