The French football federation has opened a disciplinary case against five players who went on strike at the World Cup in South Africa.
Nicolas Anelka, Franck Ribery, Eric Abidal, Jeremy Toulalan and captain Patrice Evra will appear before the disciplinary commission of the French federation later this month.
The federal council of the federation asked its disciplinary commission to give a ruling on the case after reviewing a report from a commission of inquiry set up last month.
The commission is expected to gather within 15 days. "This is a balanced decision," Laurent Davenas, a member of the three-man inquiry commission, said.
"It would have been impossible to ask the disciplinary commission to hear all 23 players," he said. "We tried to target some of them. We have the feeling that some players were king pins."
French federation president Fernand Duchaussoy said before the meeting of the federal council that such a move did not necessarily mean sanctions would be taken.
Three investigators have interviewed 18 of the 23 World Cup players, staff members and federation officials who were in South Africa when the players decided to boycott a training session. The strike was intended to protest Anelka's exclusion from the squad following an expletive-filled tirade directed at then-coach Raymond Domenech during a 2-0 loss to Mexico.
According to Patrick Braouezec, a deputy in the French national assembly who was a member of the inquiry commission, none of the players who were questioned confirmed Anelka used the offensive and crude words printed by sports daily L'Equipe after the altercation. Braouezec told RTL radio on Friday that the players accepted collective responsibility in the case.
"They were not pressurized and there were no leaders," he said. Anelka never denied ranting at Domenech but took L'Equipe to court for libel, accusing the newspaper of distorting his words. The case is unlikely to start until after this month. After Anelka's words were splashed across the front page of the newspaper, the French football federation sent the striker home, and the following day the entire squad refused to take part in training in protest at the decision.
Newly-appointed French coach Laurent Blanc dropped all the World Cup players for next week's friendly in Norway as collective punishment for their actions.
Blanc now hopes the federation will not impose further suspensions on the players, a decision that would hamper his team's chances in the qualifying race for the 2012 European Championship. France crashed out in the first round at the World Cup without winning a match.