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Soccer-Sponsor Zoopla ends West Brom deal over Anelka

Reuters

By Keith Weir

LONDON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Property website Zoopla is ending its sponsorship of West Bromwich Albion following an outcry over an alleged anti-Semitic gesture made by striker Nicolas Anelka during a Premier League game last month.

The company said in a statement on Monday its deal with the club would not continue beyond the end of the season in May.

The statement followed media reports Zoopla would pull out of the three million pounds ($4.9 million) contract unless West Brom dropped Anelka for Monday's league game against Everton, the first since Spaniard Pepe Mel took over as manager.

The former France forward was later named in the starting lineup.

Anelka made the "quenelle" gesture after scoring the first of his two goals in a 3-3 draw at West Ham 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.

"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," the company said.

The Football Association is yet to report back on its investigation into the matter and the club said in a statement on Dec. 30 that Anelka remained eligible for selection.

The striker, who has played in both West Brom's league matches since, promised not to repeat it but did not apologise for his actions.

Zoopla, a company co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, became the club's main sponsor in 2012 and said then that the agreement would run at least until the 2014-15 season.

According to the Daily Mail newspaper Zoopla wanted its name removed from Anelka's shirt for Monday's match but the company name was still on his jersey when the Frenchman emerged from the tunnel for the start.

Zoopla is part-owned by the Daily Mail & General Trust , the parent company of the newspaper.

"West Bromwich Albion has been fully aware since the sponsorship agreement came into force in June 2012 that its partnership with Zoopla could expire this summer and therefore has been planning accordingly," the club said on Monday.

"Zoopla has today informed the club in writing that it does not wish to extend its sponsorship deal. The club will now actively seek a new official sponsor for next season."

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