ANGRY protests against Oldham Athletic are expected to grow in a backlash over rapist Ched Evans’ return to football.
An online petition criticising the move has attracted around 2,000 signatures each hour since news broke claiming that Evans, 26, was set to return to the game with the League One club.
A press conference is expected later, though the club have yet to make any comment on the matter.
Evans was released from prison in October, still protesting his innocence, after serving half of a five-year sentence for the rape of a 19-year-old woman in a hotel.
He is understood to be in talks with Oldham Athletic FC, who last month said they would not be offering the ex-Wales striker a contract or the opportunity to train with them.
But the apparent U-turn has sparked outrage among some Oldham fans and the news of Evans’ possible return to football led to the growing online petition.
Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor said a League One side would hold a press conference in relation to the signing of the player, but would not name the club involved.
The petition has been set up by Jean Hatchet from London on the Change.org.uk website. In it she calls on Simon Corney, chairman of Oldham Athletic not to sign Evans, who she says does “have the right to work” but not “in a role where he influences views about sexual violence”.
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It was set up online at 1pm and has already been signed by 17,500 people.
The saga of Evans’ return to football has continued since his release sparking an angry debate over his future.
Players union the PFA says Evans has served his sentence and he deserves the chance to resume his career following his release from prison.
But fans and women’s groups say he should not return to such a high-profile role within the game.
Evans had an offer to train with his former club Sheffield United withdrawn following a backlash from Blades supporters, sponsors and patrons opposed to his return - 160,000 people signed a petition against it and the club withdrew the offer.
Other clubs including Tranmere and Hartlepool also rejected the opportunity to sign him and a recently touted move abroad to Maltese club Hibernians appeared to have floundered due to rules on convicted sex offenders and their probation regime.
Evans, who previously played for Manchester City, was jailed in April 2012 for raping a woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, north Wales.
The player denied the offence, saying the sex was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.
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