BOSSES at Sheffield United last night retracted their controversial decision to allow former player and convicted rapist Ched Evans to train at the club.
The club had been under mounting pressure to overturn its decision to let the 25-year-old footballer return to its ground following his release from prison last month after serving half of a five-year jail sentence.
Sheffield United said last night: “We recognise a number of our supporters will be disappointed with this decision, but would ask that they remember the responsibilities we have not only to a fine and proud club, whose history stretches back over 125 years, but also to the communities in which Sheffield United is active and to the city we represent.”
The club said members of the board had consulted supporters, staff, sponsors and other relevant stakeholders in order to help it reach the decision.
It added: “The club initially accepted a request from the PFA [Professional Footballers’ Association] for Ched Evans to be able to train. The reaction to this has been at an intensity that could not have been anticipated when first announced.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
“As noted in previous statements from the club, the legal system of this country provides for both the punishment and the rehabilitation of every person who has been found guilty of a crime.
“Sheffield United will not be used to promote the view that professional footballers should be treated differently.”
Evans, a former Wales international, was jailed in April 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Wales.
Sheffield United was criticised by a range of people – including people associated with the club, victims’ groups, politicians and members of the public – for allowing Evans to return to Bramhall Lane.
More than 160,000 people had signed a petition urging Sheffield United not to take the striker back.
Earlier this week, musician Paul Heaton resigned as a patron of Sheffield United over the issue. The former Beautiful South singer said he believed Evans had a “right to rebuild his career” but needed to “move away” from the Blades.
Athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill also said she wanted her name removed from a stand named after her by Sheffield United if the club offered the convicted rapist a contract.
At his trial, Evans admitted having sex with the woman but denied rape. He has come under mounting criticism for refusing to show any remorse for the crime for which he was convicted.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS