Arsenal vs PSG: UK accused of 'lack of respect' by Ligue 1 champions over shock Serge Aurier ban

The French club are furious at the Home Office's decision to deny Aurier a visa, claiming that it undermines the Champions League and is at odds with European law

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Arsenal’s crucial Champions League game with Paris Saint-Germain was overshadowed by an astonishing international spat on Tuesday as a PSG player was barred from entering the country. PSG were furious at a “flagrant lack of respect” as Serge Aurier was barred entry to the UK owing to an outstanding conviction for assault.

PSG issued a furious statement claiming that the Home Office had gone back on their initial approval of an entry visa for Aurier, a decision “difficult to understand” in the context of European law. Aurier is from Cote d'Ivoire, meaning that as a non-EU national he needs a visa to come to the UK.

“Due to a sudden about-turn by the British authorities, Serge Aurier has not been allowed to travel for the clash away to Arsenal,” said the PSG statement. “PSG is stunned by this incomprehensible situation that attacks the very integrity of the Uefa Champions League.”

PSG claimed that they initially applied for Aurier’s visa on 18 October and that three days later they were told that it would be successful. However, last Wednesday, 16 November, PSG were told that Aurier would not in fact receive a visa due to his conviction for assault from two months before. PSG said that they were told on Tuesday lunchtime, after the rest of the team had flown to London, that Aurier would not be allowed in. “PSG considers this extremely tardy response as a flagrant lack of respect for the club,” they said. PSG insisted that Uefa had “total support” for their position.

The Home Office, while not commenting on the details of PSG’s claim, insisted that UKVI officials had been in touch with PSG throughout the process. 

“We reserve the right to refuse a visa to anyone who is convicted of criminal offences,” a Home Office spokesman said. “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.”

In September Aurier was sentenced to two months in prison and fined €600 for an altercation outside a Paris nightclub. Aurier was said to have elbowed a policeman in the throat when he was asked to be breathalysed after leaving a club. Aurier maintained his innocence, though, and appealed, which is why PSG were so incensed that he was still not allowed into the UK.

PSG coach Unai Emery said that the Aurier was “disappointed” to not have been allowed into the UK. “the club did everything in it's power for Serge to be amongst us tonight,” Emery said. ““Every footballer wants to be involved in a fixture like this but ultimately the decision was not down to us. Of course it is disappointing for the player, he wanted to play in the match.”