LONDON – A convicted rapist needs to “rethink” his strategy as he attempts to resume his professional football career, according to the chief of player welfare in the game in Britain.
Ched Evans had been on the cusp of a move to Oldham Athletic, which plays in English football’s third tier, but the club pulled out of the deal because of “unbearable pressure” on its staff.
Linked with a return to former club Sheffield United last year, Evans remains without a club after being released from prison in October having served half of a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old girl.
Both Oldham and Sheffield United were dissuaded from signing Evans due to pressure from sponsors as well as criticism from leading politicians and also the British public, with thousands signing petitions against his proposed moves.
Asked if Evans looked likely to sign for another British side, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association Gordon Taylor told the BBC: “At this moment in time, you would have to say you’d be very doubtful of that.
“It may well be he would have to go abroad but at the moment because he’s out on license he can’t go abroad so we need a serious rethink now.”
Previously refused leave to appeal, Evan’s case is now before the Criminal Cases Review Commission, an independent body that reviews potential miscarriages of justice.
Hull manager Steve Bruce admitted he had backed Oldham to sign Evans and also believes the Criminal Cases Review Commission will be key to his hopes of playing again.
“I might be upsetting people but there is a question of the rape and how he’s been convicted by a jury,” said Bruce in his press conference prior to Saturday’s English Premier League game between Hull and West Bromwich Albion.
“When you do look at the case and look at the evidence then certainly Ched has got a case.
“For me the appeal can’t come quick enough for Ched. It must be a frustrating and difficult time for him and I think the events of the appeal, for me, will see Ched be allowed to play football again.”
Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.
Sheffield United, whom Evans originally joined on leaving Manchester City in 2009, pulled out of their initial approach to sign the player on his release from prison in October following a 160,000-strong petition against the move.
And more than 60,000 people signed a petition calling on Oldham not sign Evans.
Hartlepool also signaled their interest only to then back away, while a potential move to Maltese club Hibernians was quashed when the Ministry of Justice clarified its zero-tolerance policy on sex offenders working abroad.
Evans’ case has also put PFA chief Taylor under pressure after he likened the situation with Evans to that of the families of the 96 people that lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
The tragedy struck following a crush of people at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield.
After years of appeals by the families involved over the miscarriage of justice, an inquest is now ongoing into events and culpability surrounding the tragedy.
“He wouldn’t have been the first person to be found guilty, maintained their innocence and be proved right.,” said Taylor in an interview with the BBC, referring to Evans. “We know that happened with Hillsborough.
“It’s now unraveling and very different to how it was portrayed at the time, indeed by the police at the time.”
Taylor’s comments led to calls for him to stand down from his post while Dr Phil Scraton, the main author of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, wrote to him concerning his “ill-judged” remarks.
“Drawing Hillsborough into the maelstrom that has surrounded the Evans case… while suggesting a parallel between these two entirely distinct cases demonstrates not only poor judgment but also extraordinary naivety,” Scraton wrote.
Taylor has since backtracked on his previous remarks apologizing for any offense called.
“I wasn’t comparing the case but I was looking for a comparison of the principle really of people looking to have the right to maintaining their innocence and how it’s become a national issue and campaign with regard to Ched Evans,” said Taylor In an interview with BBC Radio.
“In no way was it a comparison of the offenses, it was the principle of establishing the truth and his right to do that.
“As it has turned out, I don’t want to upset any of the Hillsborough family support groups.
“We’ve always been supportive of them. It’s far from that. I admire the way, the tenacity and determination to get to the truth and that was the point I was looking to make.
“The last thing I was wanting to do was offend any of them — quite the opposite.
“And with Ched Evans of course he similarly has that right. He’s done his time in prison and has done longer in prison than normal because he’s determined to prove his innocence and has the right to return to work.”
Under current rules, Evans is permitted to return to playing football despite still serving his conviction on license.
But chairman of the Football Association Greg Dyke admitted the regulations may change the over eligibility of players to return to the game under certain circumstances.
In the first statement from the FA amid the Evans furore, Dyke said in a statement: “Rape and sexual violence are abhorrent and unacceptable. This cannot be overstated.
“We have reviewed the Ched Evans case in some detail at the FA and we have examined both the legal requirements and our rules and regulations, and there is no basis for us to intervene directly in this particular case.
“That said, it is important that we continue to look at the issue of behaviour and attitudes within football, and recognize the unique privileges and responsibilities that come with being a participating member of the national game.
“I would encourage the game to consider and discuss this matter and the prospect for future guidelines or codes of conduct.
“The FA will certainly be considering it in line with our own ongoing review of what constitutes public or private communications and behavior.” – CNN