Is There Still a Place for Ched Evans in Football?

A convicted rapist, he served two and a half years of a five year sentence and is now looking for a club to play football with once more.

His former club Oldham Athletic are today in advances talks to sign the former striker. Released on October 17 2014, he has struggled to find employment in the field of professional football since.

Sheffield United were in the advanced stages of signing him but came under increasing pressure from the stands and sponsors not to sign him. Olympian and Blades fan Jessica Ennis-Hill also disagreed with the proposed move.

Supporters of a move for Evans back in to football will argue that he has served his time, is remorseful and deserves another chance at a game he loves.

Where this falls down is that Evans only served half of his sentence. If he were to find employment Ched Evans and his employing club would have to have regular meetings with the probation service for the remainder of the five-year term. This coupled with the fact he will be on the sex offenders list for the next 15 years at least makes him that bit more difficult to employ. Not only do fans and sponsors not want him at the club, employees of the club could feel uncomfortable working with him. A physiotherapist would be a prime example, especially if she was female.

I am not suggesting that he would rape somebody again when I say that particularly a female physiotherapist would feel uncomfortable working with him – that is just an observation.

A telling aspect to the case of Ched Evans is that he maintains his innocence. The website www.chedevans.com states that The Ministry of Justice allow prisoners who maintain their innocence to use the internet through a third party to make serious representations about their innocence. The title of the main page on the website reads:

“Ched Evans was wrongly convicted of rape on 20th April 2012”

The fact he maintains his innocence despite spending two and a half years in prison either shows he genuinely believes he didn’t do anything wrong or that he is remorseless. In an attempt to clear his name the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) are conducting a review of the case and their report will be completed in autumn of this year.

The biggest issue I find with Evans coming back to football is the position in society which footballers hold. It is fair to say that footballers are role models to young people and in some cases are seen as gods. Evans didn’t have the ability to be seen as a god but certainly as a role model.  If he is allowed to come back to the game where does the buck stop? Could a football team be so stuck that they employ a convicted rapist? With all the talented young players looking for a break Oldham Athletic and other teams would do well to steer clear of him.

Furthermore, club sponsors Verlin Rainwater Solutions and Mecca Bingo have vowed to cut their ties if Oldham do eventually offer him a contract. If this, along with a petition of over 62,000 names at the time of writing does not show Oldham they are making a grave error then nothing will.

I understand sex offenders are stigmatised, shunned and still have to find a way to integrate back in to society. It could be seen that I’m adding to the stigma. Personally I don’t think so because giving him a professional footballing contract would be elevating him to a higher position in society than he deserves. He had his chance, now what? Put on the jersey like the events of the past three years didn’t happen? Malky Mackay showed us football can be a barbaric place, but this is a completely different ball game.

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