- In 2012 footballer Sheffield United player Ched Evans received a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman. He scored 35 goals in the 2011/12 season.
- A judge from the Appeal Court rejected Evans’ attempt to appeal. “I am not persuaded . . . that the fresh evidence… is such as to render the verdict of the jury unsafe”.
- He served half his sentence before being released in October 2014 on licence, and his lawyers are trying to mount an appeal.
- Club officials wanting to sign him have received death threats and an Oldham board member was told his daughter would be raped.
- Ched Evans says, “Whilst I continue to maintain my innocence… I wholeheartedly apologise for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned.”
- Poll on mirror.co.uk: Do you think Ched Evans should be allowed to return to football? 59% Yes. 41% No.
The Big Question:
Greg Dyke, FA Chairman – “Are people who go to prison entitled to rebuild their lives or aren’t they? Or is what they’ve done so bad because they’re in an industry where their image is important?”
For Evans playing again..
Harry Redknapp, QPR Manager – “Once you’ve done your time you’ve done your time.”
Dan Hodges, The Telegraph – “It is the law that has to deal justice to Evans. Not the mob…we cannot substitute our penal system for a Twitter feed.”
Professional Footballers’ Association – “We do not agree that society should impose different rules for footballers which go beyond the position of law.”
Richard Garside, Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies – “He was found guilty and a prison sentence was his punishment, not unemployment.”
Eric Hall, ex-football agent – “The guy has been to prison, served his sentence and now they want to give him another punishment? You can’t stop the man from working.”
Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph – “Ched Evans’s victim, her identity cruelly unmasked by his supporters, is effectively on the run…I find that deplorable – but so are those who seek to force Evans on to a medieval ducking stool because he insists on protesting his innocence.”
Against him playing :
David Cameron, Prime Minister – “[Clubs must] weigh the decision very carefully [because of] the position of footballers as role models.”
Ed Miliband, Labour Party Leader – “He hasn’t shown remorse and I wouldn’t take him on.”
Sarah Green, End Violence Against Women Coalition – “We are appalled by any football club which signs an unrepentant convicted rapist.”
Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner – “Ched Evans’s lack of remorse and failure to acknowledge his offence means it is simply inappropriate for him to be on a football pitch presenting himself as some kind of role model.”
Jessica Ennis-Hill, Olympic Gold Medal winner – “I believe being a role model to young people is a huge honour and those in positions of influence in communities should respect the role they play in young people’s lives.”
Henry Winter, The Telegraph “He is not the victim. She is.”
Football Sponsors – Neil Joy, the chief executive of Oldham, who considered signing Evans, said that their sponsors were going to pull out of the club, and “Proceeding could have placed significant financial pressure on the club”.
Oddly, some footballers have served time and carried on playing…
Joey Barton: In 2007 he was seen on CCTV punching a man. He served two months of a six-month sentence.
Marlon King: In 2009 he was sentenced to 18 months in jail for groping a woman and then breaking her nose. After serving his time, he was signed by Coventry City and won their Player of the Year. At the moment he is serving an 18-month sentence for dangerous driving.
Lee Hughes: In 2004 the ex-West Brom striker was given a six-year sentence for causing fatalities through dangerous driving. Hughes signed with Oldham and scored 25 goals in 55 games.
People have differing and strong opinions, and there is a lot to be said for both perspectives. We need to respect the law, and, as Libby Purves wrote in the Independent, “We don’t execute or exile, so rehabilitation is at the core of our penal system”. Yet rehabilitation does require an acceptance that what has happened is wrong. Perhaps the torrent of abuse against Evans will only cease when more people believe his regret for the distress caused by the situation on the woman is genuine but realise that an apology for rape would be hypocritical since he maintains that he is innocent. If that happens sponsors might stop hindering his return. Of course, if an appeal succeeds, he will play again, although it will be at least a year before any decision is taken. The final question is who will prevail, the law or the people?