Sources have told Marketing Week the property portal warned the West Midlands club it will axe the tie-up with immediate effect if the French striker plays against Everton on Monday (20 January). 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 face the Merseyside side club next week, however, with one source close to the matter claiming the club is not prepared to let sponsors dictate its team selection. West Brom are 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, according to the source.
The club has backed the former Arsenal star’s protest that the salute was done as a tribute to French comedian and friend Dieudonné, but has conceded it did cause offence. Anelka could be slapped with a mutli-match ban pending the results of the Football Association’s (FA) investigation.
A spokesman for the club said: “West Bromwich Albion will be making no further comment until the FA has concluded its investigation, and the club its own internal enquiry, into the matter.”
Zoopla did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
It is not the first time a Premier League sponsor has had to wade into controversies involving players. In 2012, Standard Chartered slammed Liverpool FC striker Luis Suarez for refusing to shake Manchester United’s Patrice defender Evra’s hand ahead of a match and voiced its concerns with the club.