Earlier today, Tottenham Hotspur confirmed the signing of right back Serge Aurier from Paris St. Germain for a fee of around £25m. While rumored for weeks and expected for a few days now, the signing of Aurier has had a cloud of controversy surrounding it based on Aurier’s off the pitch behavior. Aurier is appealing a 2016 conviction for assaulting a police office outside a Paris nightclub, and was also caught on a Periscope video using homophobic slurs in reference to his teammates, then-manager Laurent Blanc, and Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
While announcing the signing, Spurs released the following statement from Aurier, which seemed to touch on the controversy and which some have seen as a signifier that there is more to come from Aurier and the club.
“This is a huge and exciting opportunity at a massive football club and I am determined to prove myself as a professional both on and off the pitch. This is a fresh start for me and I will do everything to make the Spurs fanbase, which is huge and diverse, proud of me. The fans are the most important people at any club and I am looking forward to showing them and everyone at Spurs the real Serge Aurier.”
In the wake of the signing, Proud Lilywhites (@SpursLGBT), an officially sanctioned Tottenham Hotspur LGBT supporters’ group, released a statement, reproduced here in part:
We were initially unhappy with the signing, but given our positive dialogue with the Club we would like to use this as an opportunity to build bridges and make lasting change.
Football has the power to transform individuals’ lives and entire communities. At its best, it doesn’t merely delight us: it can provide us with a chance to transcend geographical boundaries and learn to work and play and celebrate together. Players, Clubs and the Football Authorities need to take this responsibility seriously, so what happens when players such as Serge Aurier who have been openly homophobic in the past join a new Club and have a fresh start? It actually gives us an opportunity to talk about the kind of game we want to see, players we want to support; the kind of Clubs we want to be and make effective and deep-rooted change...
But this is a journey – we don’t want to recriminate. One of our main tools for change is education, so we’d like to see engagement with LGBT+ fans is at the top of Serge’s list. We’ve already done great work with Stewards, Club staff and fans and look forward to working with the Club and other supporters, to show Serge Aurier that Spurs fans are incredibly diverse, welcoming and loyal.
We at Cartilage Free Captain have been in direct contact with Proud Lilywhites and affirm their statement, which we encourage you to read in full. We look forward to seeing further outreach from the club to its fans, particularly its LGBT fans.