PSG fury as Serge Aurier refused a visa for Arsenal clash
Ivorian has been banned by the Home Office after he was convicted of elbowing a police officer earlier this year
Arsenal's crucial Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain has been overshadowed by the decision of the UK Border Control to deny Serge Aurier a visa because of a conviction for elbowing a police officer.
Aurier was handed a two month jail sentence for the fracas, which occurred outside a Paris nightclub in May when he was asked to provide a breath test. The 23-year-old Ivorian right-back was given a 600 euro fine as well as what The Guardian describes as a "convertible sentence which will probably result in community service rather than jail time".
Aurier appealed the court's decision and was allowed to continue playing football until the case was heard. PSG therefore assumed there would no issue with his travelling to London on Tuesday to play in tonight's match against Arsenal that is likely to decide who finishes top of Group A.
According to BBC Sport he had applied for a Tier 2 Sportsperson visa, "which allows an individual to stay in a country for up to three years and typically takes three weeks to process".
But at 2pm on Tuesday afternoon, the Ministry of the Interior informed PSG that Aurier would not be allowed into Britain, a decision that provoked a furious reaction from the French champions.
Accusing the British authorities of undermining “the very integrity of the Champions League” by their decision, PSG said in a statement that Aurier had initially been granted an entry visa in October, but it had been revoked by on 16 November.
PSG said the UK authorities "justified their about-face by citing Aurier's conviction". But the furious French club insisted: "Paris Saint-Germain had, in all transparency, informed the British authorities of this conviction, as well as Aurier's appeal against this decision (and the legal suspension of the ruling) from the outset. 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."
Adding that they deeply regret "that the presumption of innocence has not influenced Britain’s decision", PSG said the timing of the decision only increased their bewilderment because they had been "working for the last six days to find a solution to enable our player to travel with his teammates to London".
Romain Vanni, Aurier's lawyer, told French sports daily L'Equipe that he found the UK Border Control decision - which cannot be appealed - "absolutely incomprehensible" and said he had no idea what had caused the Home Office to revoke their visa.
However, the Home Office insisted that it was within its rights "to refuse a visa to anyone who is convicted of criminal offences".
"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," it said.
The latest controversy will add to Aurier's bad boy image, one that began at the start of this year when he was banned for insulting his then PSG coach Laurent Blanc as well as a number of teammates. Sympathy appears thin on the ground this morning from the French with the capital's newspaper, Le Parisien, running a poll asking readers if they understand the British position. Sixty per cent of respondents said 'oui'.