The mob has triumphed: Ched Evans will not be signed by Oldham Athletic Football Club. The club dropped their offer to sign Evans after staff and their families were threatened. Evans has released a statement in which he blames “mob rule tactics”. He also distanced himself from similar threats coming from his supporters.
Mr Evans was released from prison in October having served two and a half years of a five year sentence for rape – a crime of which he maintains his innocence. Although he was refused leave to appeal the conviction, his case has been accepted by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Following his release Oldham Athletic, a League One club offered to sign Evans. However, the offer was widely criticised, with more than 60,000 people signing a petition calling on Oldham Athletic to recind their offer. Politicians also waded into the debate: Ed Miliband said that, if it were his decision, he would not employ Evans thanks to his lack of remorse.
According to the Daily Mail, the club announced their decision to pull the offer of employment after a director was told that his daughter would be raped if the deal went ahead. Greater Manchester Police are investigating the threats. “It is totally unacceptable,” said Greater Manchester’s chief constable Sir Peter Fahy. “We will be contacting Oldham Athletic to make sure that it’s investigated.”
The case has also opened a debate over rape convictions, and how convicted rapists should be allowed to live after serving their jail time. Steve Bruce, manager of Hull City this morning stepped forward to openly support Evans, telling the media that he was of the opinion that Evans should be given “a second chance”.
He also showed unease about the safety of the conviction, saying: “I can only say on behalf of myself, I know I might be upsetting people but there is a question of the rape and how he’s been convicted by a jury. When you look at the evidence, it is there for appeal.
“I’m a big believer that if you have done your time everyone deserves a second chance. We have seen footballers involved with accidents and being given a second chance.
“It has divided opinion of course and when you look at the case in detail and, I don’t think most people have really, because they have just seen Ched Evans as a convicted rapist, 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.”
Fellow Premier League side manager Harry Redknapp was in agreement, saying “’I think it’s about getting a second chance in life. … once you’ve done your time you’ve done your time, and somewhere along the line you’ve got to come out and make a go of your life.
“So it’s a very difficult situation at the moment with the lad who is a footballer and wants to play football. What does he do? If he goes and works in a supermarket people are going to say “we’ve got a rapist working in the supermarket. Somewhere he’s got to work, whether it’s football or somewhere, he can’t just not be allowed to carry on with his life.”
Meanwhile The Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson has been labelled a ‘rape apologist’ for questioning whether the rape of which he was convicted can really be classified as such. In her most recent column on the subject, she notes “In the Ched Evans case, the 19-year-old victim did not go to the police to report that she had been raped. She made no complaint whatsoever. She had no memory of being raped. She called the police to report a missing handbag. It was the police who suggested that she might have a case for rape against two well-known footballers.”
Pearson continues: “When Channel 4 news ran a story about whether Evans would be signed by Oldham Athletic, the reporter concluded that the club would have to choose “between money and morals”. Oh really? What morals did he have in mind? Christian morality says we should hate the sin, forgive the sinner. Jesus Christ spent his time with reviled outcasts. Outcasts like Ched Evans. Yet we hear nothing from the Church. As for our political leaders, instead of urging a sense of proportion, they take dictation from the mob.”
Evans himself has released a statement commenting on the collapse of the deal, and his thoughts on the whole affair. A shortened version was put out on his behalf by the Professional Footballers’ Association, followed by the full statement which later appeared on a personal website.
The full statement reads: “It is with great sadness that today I have withdrawn from talks with Oldham Athletic. I would like to thank the Club, and those who have supported me in my lawful quest to find work. I apologise to the clubs supporters, sponsors and all those effected [sic] by the last 72 hours.
“Sadly the ‘mob rule’ tactics employed by the more radical elements of our society and the constant media reporting has had the desired influence on some sponsors and the club would face significant financial pressure if I joined them. The most significant issue for me was that owing to the threat of funding opportunities being withdrawn which may jeopardise the building of Oldhams [sic] new stand it would mean that workers would lose their jobs and others would be put at risk – that would simply not be fair.
“Upon legal advice, I chose not to discuss the events in question. My silence has been misinterpreted as arrogance and I would like to state that this could not be further from the truth.
“I do remain limited at present by what I can say due to the ongoing application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and whilst I continue to maintain my innocence, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologise for the effect that that night in Rhyl has had on many people, especially the woman concerned.
“Finally, it has been claimed that those using social media in an abusive and vindictive way towards this woman are supporters of mine. I wish to make it clear that these people are not my supporters and I condemn their actions entirely and will continue to do so.”