October 3, 2022

You have now learned that Tottenham Hotspur are close to an agreement with Brighton & Hove Albion for the transfer of Mali international midfielder Yves Bissouma. The fee is still being negotiated but is expected to be around £22-23m. This has, predictably, thrown Tottenham into a whirlwind of rhetoric, due to a shroud of legal ambiguity over a sexual assault allegation that has hovered over Bissouma for nearly a year.

We must talk about this shroud, because it is extremely important, and silence is death.

I want to start by saying that Yves Bissouma is an excellent footballer, and he would definitely improve Tottenham’s midfield next season. He’s a player I’ve watched and admired for a few seasons now, and if this signing happened purely in a football context, it would be hugely exciting. Tottenham Hotspur would be a more successful football club with Bissouma on the pitch.

But that’s not the problem here. Bissouma’s current legal status is, to say the least, extremely murky, and due to the nature of the incident to which it relates (a reported case of sexual assault), it is currently impossible for me to comfortably sort out the ground. of Bissouma ability with what was reported about what happened that night.

I am not an expert in UK legal matters. I know defamation laws in the UK are strict, and that’s almost certainly why Bissouma’s status hasn’t been fully addressed in the media. It’s also why neither Brighton nor Tottenham have issued a public comment. My status as an American and the fact that this blog is located in the United States probably gives me more leeway to talk about this situation. However, I feel like it would be a disservice to speculate on Bissouma’s legal status, what he may or may not have done, or what it potentially means. Speculation is useless in this case.

There’s a decent summary of Bissouma’s status on Reddit, with minimal editorials. Very briefly, here’s what we know: In early October 2021, Bissouma was arrested along with another man in his 40s on suspicion of playing a role in a sexual assault incident at a Brighton nightclub. Bissouma was released the next day on bail until November 3. His bail and that of the other man were extended over the following weeks until early January 2022.

The last relevant update from Sussex Police in April said that while the man in his 40s has had his bail extended, Bissouma has been “released under investigation while inquiries continue”. Notably, after a short period after the arrest, Bissouma went on to play football for Brighton & Hove Albion and also in the Africa Cup of Nations with Mali.

Immediately after the incident, Brighton & Hove Albion made the following statement, to my knowledge the only public statement they have made about the incident:

“Brighton and Hove Albion are aware that one of their players is assisting the police in the investigation of an alleged offence.

“The matter is the subject of legal proceedings and the club are therefore unable to comment further at this time.”

Bissouma has not been charged with a crime following what happened in October, but in particular he has not been fully cleared of suspicion, and has not yet been. This has placed him in a legal gray area where he is (obviously) innocent until proven guilty, but still under a legal cloud that does not eliminate the possibility that he was involved in or committed a crime.

UK libel laws mean there has been very little actual reporting on what happened in October, and what we don’t know could fill a much larger volume than what we actually know. There are rumours. You probably know some of them. They should not be taken into account in our reflections on this question. Because of this ambiguity, I deliberately try not to draw any other conclusions than what has been reported by the police and in the media. It is this very ambiguity that is at the heart of the problem for me, and why at this moment I would feel deeply uncomfortable with Tottenham Hotspur making this signing.

I would like to believe that Tottenham know what they are doing here. I want to assume that club officials have access to even confidential information that is not available to the general public, and that Spurs are making a transfer decision with enough knowledge to make an informed decision on Bissouma’s legal status. and what that means to him. keep playing football. I want to believe that Tottenham, who have outwardly shown their support for marginalized fan groups and good causes in the past, have done their due diligence here and that as fans we can take the best of what this signing means for the club.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s the case.

The truth is, we just don’t know. And when it comes to incidents of sexual assault involving a current, past or future member of Tottenham Hotspur, not knowing and assuming the best is not enough.

Tottenham are probably severely limited in what they can and cannot say about Yves Bissouma, both what happened to him and what could still be in his future. It’s entirely possible that they won’t be able to release a public statement at this time on what this means. But if they are able to do so, the club absolutely must approach the supporters in a hurry to reassure them that they know what they are doing. And if they are NOT able to do so, then the club have no reason to try and sign Bissouma and should look elsewhere for a midfield reinforcement.

Other clubs clearly have different priorities and comfort levels with this stuff. Manchester United notably signed Cristiano Ronaldo in 2021 when he was credibly accused of rape in the United States, and played for more than a season under this cloud; the case against him was recently thrown out by a magistrate not because Ronaldo was found not guilty, but because his accuser’s lawyers committed wrongdoing. But Ronaldo’s status as an accused sexual predator clearly didn’t bother Manchester United at the time. I expect much better than that from Spurs.

I want to be perfectly clear about my position. I don’t assume that Bissouma did anything wrong. He may not have one! If more information were to come out that provided further clarification that further exonerated him or more fully explained his situation, which is very unlikely to happen at this stage, then I would be extremely happy with Bissouma’s signing and very relieved that he was cleared, because he is one hell of a footballer.

But that’s not the issue here, and until we know for sure, Tottenham are in a position where they are potentially in the process of signing a player who is still under the veil of an ongoing assault investigation. sexual. Fans cannot and should not give the club the benefit of the doubt in these circumstances. Think what this means for Tottenham fans – or football fans in general – who are sexual assault survivors and see a player still suspected of the crime join their club. Should we expect these supporters to be expected to remain silent? Why should they assume the club is doing the right thing when they don’t give us a reason to?

Should this signing materialize, it behooves Tottenham to reassure the supporters that they are making a decision that is in the best interests of the club. It is THEIR responsibility to do so. It is NOT the responsibility of the supporters to assume the best. If they do commit to signing Yves Bissouma, they need to find a way to convince pissed off Spurs fans like me as soon as possible, and through some sort of official or trusted channel. “Innocent until proven guilty” in this case is simply not enough.

And to be even clearer, if the club gives assurances to the supporters on the status of Bissouma and if the preponderance of evidence confirms it, then I will be in heaven. I want to be able to watch Bissouma play without wondering if he did something wrong, because football is not just about watching the players on the pitch. If Spurs are truly committed to being a club for everyone, then all of its transfer moves must go through a strict vetting system.

There are plenty of good central midfielders available that Tottenham Hotspur could sign this summer. Signing Bissouma in the circumstances as we now understand them is a CHOICE, but until more information is released I am in the unenviable position of not supporting this signing, or Tottenham’s decision making in part of the process. There is no place in this team for sexual predators, and even the slim possibility of Spurs signing one is abhorrent to me, and should be to all fans. Tottenham must either explain themselves or walk away.