Critics blast ‘shameful and disgusting’ decision to let convicted rapist Ched Evans train with old team Sheffield United again just a month after his release from prison
- Welsh footballer jailed for five years in 2012 for raping 19-year-old woman
- 150,000 signed petition demanding Sheffield United refuse to sign him
- But club has admitted that striker Evans will start training this week
- Rape charities spoke out after it emerged he could be training by tomorrow
- Fans and victim support groups call the decision ‘disgusting’ and ‘shameful’
- Striker was freed from prison last month after serving half of sentence
- Evans has been criticised over lack of remorse for the crime and denies rape
Campaigners and football fans have attacked a decision to allow convicted rapist Ched Evans to train again with his former club.
League One club Sheffield United has been urged to think again about allowing Evans back on its training pitches just a month on from his release after serving half of a five-year jail term for raping a 19-year-old woman.
Critics, including rape support groups, say Sheffield United’s decision is ‘disgusting’ and an insult to his victim and others who have been raped.
And one group has asked Culture Secretary Sajid Javid to make it clear to the football authorities that the reputation of the game is at risk ‘when some of its leaders appear to put profit and success before ensuring that there is zero tolerance of sexual violence’.
Controversial: Rapist Ched Evans will start training with his former club Sheffield United this week despite 150,000 people demanding the club turn him away
New start: Ched Evans is to marry his fiancée Natasha Massey after proposing shortly after he was released from prison, where he served half of a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old girl
Backlash: There has been huge support for a campaign to stop Evans returning to his former club, and other believe as he has only served half his five-year sentence a ban should last for at least that period
More than 157,000 people have signed an online petition urging the League One club not to let him return after he was jailed for five years in 2012.
Rape Crisis England & Wales spokeswoman Katie Russell said: ‘What is especially disappointing about today’s news is that, once again, it comes with no strong statement from Sheffield United regarding their stance on sexual violence against women and girls.
‘Rape Crisis and others have repeatedly called for football to make clear that they recognise the devastating, life-long impact of rape on those who survive it, and to reassure fans that sexual violence and misogyny won’t be tolerated in the ‘beautiful game’.
Warning: Presenter Charlie Webster, who was abused as a child, said she would quit as a Sheffield United patron if they resigned Evans and criticised the club for announcing he is joining training on Remembrance Day
‘From its privileged position at the heart of so many communities, football has the opportunity to support Rape Crisis and others in our ongoing work to redress this injustice and to uphold the needs and rights of sexual violence survivors by raising awareness and understanding.
‘Instead, it chooses to snub survivors and ignore public opinion by once again failing to explain itself.’
TV presenter Charlie Webster said today she would quit as a club patron and criticised bosses for announcing the training deal on Remembrance Day ‘when she should be remembering real heroes’.
Evans, 25, was released from prison last month and continues to deny he raped the girl in a Premier Inn in his hometown of Rhyl, north Wales, in front of his friends.
But by the end of the week Evans will be training with Sheffield United, where he earned £20,000 before he was jailed, and is likely to be the final step before he signs for them permanently.
The club has repeatedly refused to rule out signing the player and some of its fans have been chanting his name at games since his release.
Sheffield United have already contacted the Football Association to inform them of the news.
The decision came despite huge support for a campaign to stop Evans returning to his former club with many saying he should never play again.
Others believe, because he has only served half his five-year sentence, he should not play until that time period ends in 2016.
TV presenter and Sheffield United patron Charlie Webster reiterated today that she will quit her role with the club if they re-sign convicted rapist Evans.
Miss Webster, who was abused as a child herself, told BBC Radio 5: ‘I believe in rehabilitation and we have one of the best systems in the world.
SHEFFIELD UNITED ALLOWED EVANS TO TRAIN WITH FORMER TEAM AFTER ‘REQUEST FROM PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLERS’ ASSOCIATION’
Sheffield United Football Club acknowledges the public discussion on the potential return of its former player, Mr Ched Evans, to professional football following the completion of the custodial portion of his sentence for rape in the courts of England and Wales.
While some have speculated about whether the Club will or should invite Mr Evans to return to SUFC as a registered footballer, the Club is not prepared at this time to decide that issue.
The Club also acknowledges receipt of a request from The Professional Footballers’ Association (‘The PFA’) to the effect that the Club consider allowing Mr Evans, who is a PFA member, to train at the Club’s facilities. According to the request, this training would be with a view to enabling Mr Evans to get back to a level of fitness, which might enable him to find employment in his chosen trade.
This request has come to the Club, because it is the last club at which Mr Evans was registered before his conviction.
After due consideration, the Board has decided to respond favourably to The PFA’s request and to allow Mr Evans to train at the Club’s facilities.
To read the full statement, click here
Couple: It is thought Evans, pictured with Ms Massey before he was convicted, did not want to propose from jail
‘But I don’t see how how you can rehabilitate somebody who doesn’t believe they have done something wrong.
‘I feel like it is my duty and responsibility to stand up to this.
‘Very few people would be able to walk back into the same job as they did before being a convicted rapist.’
She also attacked the club for announcing the news that Evans would be training with them on Remembrance Day.
‘I find it disappointing that they announce it on day when she should be remembering real heroes,’ she said.
‘It’s a shameful way to release the news.’
End Violence Against Women Coalition spokeswoman Sarah Green said: ‘We are appalled that top football club Sheffield United are taking the first step to allowing an unrepentant convicted rapist back into their team this week.
‘Footballers are critical role models for young men and women in particular, and the player concerned is now set to return to top-flight football when he has shown no remorse for his crime. Indeed he has used his profile to persistently claim his ‘innocence’ in the media and re-traumatise his own and many other victims.’
Opposite view: Some Sheffield United fans have been chanting for Ched Evans and carrying flags with his name during games since his release
Ms Green called on Sheffield United’s owners to ‘please consider seriously the message you will send to survivors of sexual violence, and simultaneously to all Sheffield United fans, the local community in Sheffield, and to football fans across the UK and indeed internationally, if you give an unrepentant convicted rapist a new contract’.
She said the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), which has argued Evans should be allowed to continue his career, should reconsider its position because the player has shown no remorse and she also called on the Football Association (FA) to take a stand.
Ms Green said: ‘The reputation of football and footballers regarding sexism and sexual violence has been severely tested in recent years. It is time to draw a clear line.’
And she asked Sheffield MPs and Culture Secretary Sajid Javid to make clear to the clubs and authorities that the reputation of the game is at risk ‘when some of its leaders appear to put profit and success before ensuring that there is zero tolerance of sexual violence’.
Feminist campaign group Object said on Twitter: ‘Object stands in solidarity with the woman Ched Evans was convicted of raping and all other rape survivors affected by today’s news.’
@CMcLaughlin14 said: ‘Disgraceful that Ched Evans is being allowed to train with @SUFC-tweets. They should be ashamed. No-one else would get their job back!’
@SimonTOverall said: ‘Disgusting letting Ched Evans a convicted rapist back into training. Shameful @SUFC-tweets.’
Support: Ms Massey, pictured on ITV’s This Morning, said she has put thoughts of Evans’s infidelity ‘to one side’ but believes he is not capable of rape
Evans had been serving at HMP Wymott prison in Lancashire but was released last month
The former Sheffield United and Wales striker was released from Wymott prison, Lancashire in October.
He then proposed to fiancée Natasha Massey, who has led the campaign to overturn his conviction.
But Evans’ own family have criticised his lack of remorse, with his aunt Nina Evans, 56, urging him to apologise to his victim.
She said: ‘He deserved to go down as he was found guilty – he did rape her.’
His victim, now 22, has had to change her identity twice after being targeted by trolls who named her online, and is now living away from her friends and family.
The victim’s father has also spoken out, demanding an apology from the footballer.
He said: ‘He’s shown no remorse and every time he makes some fresh appeal or comment, he draws attention to my daughter and risks her being identified and found.
‘She went into hiding because people were trying to track her down and kill her.’
His fiancée Ms Massey appeared alongside Evans in a recent video he made, in which he insisted he was guilty only of infidelity – not the rape he was jailed for.
In the video, Evans apologised to Ms Massey, who he described as ‘the woman I love with all my heart’.
He said: ‘I’ve constantly regretted my act of infidelity and the damage that has been done on so many fronts because of it.
‘The support that’s been shown by Natasha, our friends and family during the trial and the time spent in prison has kept me strong.
‘It can’t have been an easy thing to stand by someone who the court found guilty of such a destructive act. I will be forever grateful.
‘Even though I’ve been released from prison I’m determined to continue to fight to clear my name.’
Getting married: Ms Massey, pictured with Evans last week, is said to be ‘over the moon’ after he proposed to her
Ms Massey appeared to be wearing an ‘engagement’ ring in the video, but it is now believed to have been a ‘commitment ring’ Evans gave her while he was in prison.
It is understood that Evans had not wanted to propose while he was in jail, but planned to asked Ms Massey to marry him as soon as he was freed.
Ms Massey has continued to protest Evans’s innocence since he was convicted of rape in April 2012.
Shortly before his release earlier this month, she wrote on the ChedEvans.com website: ‘Not a minute passes when I don’t think about Ched, his mental and physical strength is admirable and keeps us all positive.
‘When Ched is released the fight to clear his name will continue, however long it takes this is one fight we will not lose.
‘My boyfriend was wrongly convicted and we are doing everything in our power to clear his name.’
She later told ITV’s This Morning: ‘As soon as I found out that he’d been questioned over rape, my instinct was kind of protective of Ched, and I thought I have to stand by him.
‘So my thoughts and feelings over the cheating were put to one side and I just stepped in to help him through this terrible time.
‘I know Ched and I knew he wouldn’t be capable of committing a crime like that.’
The Criminal Cases Review Commission is currently examining Evans’s case as part of his hopes to launch an appeal. He has not been re-signed by his former club or any other team since his release.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2829831/Convicted-rapist-Ched-Evans-training-Sheffield-United-week-just-month-release-prison.html#ixzz3ImyINXQs
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook