This file photo taken on April 6, 2016 shows Paris Saint-Germain’s Ivorian defender Serge Aurier looking on prior to the UEFA Champions League quarter final football match between Paris Saint Germain (PSG) and Manchester City on April 6, 2016 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. Paris Saint-Germain defender Serge Aurier will not be allowed into Britain to face Arsenal in their Champions League clash on November 23 after British authorities revoked his visa, the French club said.
MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
Paris Saint-Germain defender Serge Aurier has been barred from Britain and will miss the club’s Champions League tie against Arsenal on Wednesday after British authorities revoked his visa.
The French champions called the decision “incomprehensible” but Britain’s Interior Ministry said it was acting according to established immigration rules.
“Paris Saint-Germain is stunned by this incomprehensible situation that attacks the very integrity of the UEFA Champions League,” the club said on Tuesday, adding it was because of Aurier’s September conviction for assaulting a police officer outside a Paris nightclub.
The French champions made clear their anger with British authorities, especially because they said they were only informed of the final decision on Tuesday lunchtime, calling that “a flagrant lack of respect for the club”.
“After an initial application on October 18, complete with all the necessary documents, the British authorities had originally granted Paris Saint-Germain’s Ivory Coast international an entry visa to the UK on October 21,” PSG said.
“However, on November 16, his visa was finally revoked by the British Ministry of the Interior, who justified their about-face by citing Aurier’s conviction.”
PSG, who face Arsenal with top spot up for grabs in Group A, said that they lobbied against the decision to no avail and were further angered by the fact that the final ruling came so late.
The 23-year-old Aurier has not spent any time in prison, despite being sentenced to two months for the assault, and has filed an appeal against the decision.
However, Britain’s Interior Ministry stood by its decision.
“Mr Aurier received a two month custodial sentence in September for assaulting a police officer. The immigration rules clearly state that non-EU nationals who have received a custodial sentence of less than 12 months within the last five years will be refused on criminality grounds,” a statement from the ministry said.
– ‘Maximum difficulty’ –
However Andrew Osborne, head of immigration and joint head of sport at London-based law firm Lewis Silkin, criticised a “harsh decision” that he said was another example of the British government’s ‘hostile’ immigration policy.
“Given that the player has given full disclosure of the offence, that he will only be in the UK for a very short period and that he has an outstanding appeal this seems a harsh decision,” said Osborne.
“The timing of the initial approval and then late change of heart to revoke the visa is also tough and causes PSG maximum difficulty. This looks like another example of the ‘hostile’ immigration environment that the current Government want to cultivate.”
Aurier’s failure to make it for the Arsenal showdown is just the latest chapter in his colourful career.
He made a throat-slitting gesture to the crowd during a World Cup qualifier last month after his cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by a Mali player in an Ivory Coast victory, prompting a FIFA investigation.
Aurier also got in trouble last season after making derogatory comments about his then-PSG coach Laurent Blanc and other team-mates, including current Manchester United star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, on a social media video post.
He was suspended for five weeks but owned up to having committed “a stupid mistake”.
The assault conviction came after he was stopped in May when leaving a nightclub in the early hours of the morning in the French capital.
The court heard that the troubled footballer refused to cooperate with police when asked to leave his tinted-glass Porsche Cayenne, which police said was incorrectly parked outside the club in an upmarket district of Paris.
Police said the situation turned violent when an agitated Aurier elbowed one of the officers in the chest.
In its strongly worded statement on Tuesday, PSG said: “The club has argued several times that since the player has launched a legal appeal against the criminal ruling, he is therefore entitled to the presumption of innocence, as any other person exercising their right to appeal.
“Paris Saint-Germain strongly regrets that the presumption of innocence has not influenced Britain’s decision.”UEFA had also supported PSG in its attempts to get Aurier into Britain for Wednesday’s game, the club added.