UK

Ched Evans: 'I wouldn't take footballer on,' Miliband says

Ched Evans Image copyright PA

The football club Oldham Athletic are right to be reconsidering whether to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband says.

On BBC Radio Manchester, Mr Miliband said Evans had shown no remorse and that he would not employ him.

Oldham had been poised to offer a long-term deal to Evans, 26, who was freed from prison last October.

But an online petition signed by 20,000 people opposing the deal has prompted the club to reconsider.

Wales international Evans had been set to join Oldham on a long-term deal and train with the League One club on Monday.

But, amid increasing concern about any criticism and the possible reaction of sponsors, the club's board held a meeting on Monday to reconsider the move.

Late on Monday afternoon, Oldham's chief executive, Neil Joy, made a statement outside the ground in which he said: "Whilst acknowledging the considerable media attention we continue to have conversations with representative bodies, such as the [Professional Footballers' Association], and will conduct due diligence with regard to any decision we make on this matter."

The club manager, Lee Johnson, earlier said it was a decision for the board, but acknowledged that the club was facing a "very, very difficult circumstance".

Asked about the issue on Monday morning, Mr Miliband said: "I think that it's right Oldham are thinking again about whether Ched Evans should be hired by them because you are a role model, he's been convicted of a very serious crime.

"Personally, if I was in their shoes, he hasn't shown remorse and I wouldn't take him on."

This view was echoed in a statement by Greater Manchester's Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd, who said: "All offenders have the right to rebuild their lives and make amends after they have served their sentence.

"But Ched Evans' lack of remorse and failure to acknowledge his offence means it is simply inappropriate for him to be on a Greater Manchester football pitch week in and week out presenting himself as some kind of role model, especially to young people."

'Out of the door'

The firm that sponsors Oldham Athletic's main stand - Verlin Rainwater Solutions - has said it will end its association with the club if Evans is taken on.

Craig Verling, a director at the company, said: "The club know our stance and that is if they sign or allow Ched Evans to train we will be out of the door."

The club also has an affiliation with the local Mecca Bingo hall, and a spokesman for Mecca Bingo said it would "review the partnership" if Evans was signed.

However, another Oldham sponsor - Web Applications UK - said it would continue to support the club, with chief executive Craig Dean arguing that it would be "unethical" to seek to influence the situation in either direction.

Evans was convicted in April 2012 of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel the year before, while he was a player for Sheffield United.

The club cancelled his contract, but upon his release it offered him use of their training facilities. However, the offer was withdrawn after a backlash from supporters and club patrons.

Television presenter Charlie Webster, who resigned as a patron of Sheffield United over the issue, said Evans should not be able to return as a professional footballer.

Image caption TV presenter Charlie Webster resigned as a patron of Evans's former club

On ITV's Good Morning Britain on Monday, Ms Webster said that, while she did "believe in rehabilitation", she felt Evans should now be restricted to jobs "where he's not influencing the next generation and he's not seen as a role model".

She said: "The problem with giving Ched Evans his job back in a position of privilege is the fact that we're saying to young boys and men out there: 'You know what, we tolerate rape in this society. It's OK, you might get a bit of a slap, you might get two-and-a-half years in prison - but actually ultimately you'll be fine.'"

Maintaining innocence

The MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, Debbie Abrahams, said in a statement: "I believe it would be wrong for Ched Evans to return to playing football for OAFC, or any other club, as he has been convicted of rape, a violent crime for which he has neither apologised or acknowledged.

"As he is claiming his innocence, and in the process of appealing against his conviction, both he, and football clubs, should wait for the outcome of this process before even considering a return to the sport."

Maltese club Hibernians recently said they wanted to sign Evans, but the Ministry of Justice declared that the strict conditions imposed on sex offenders taking up new employment effectively prevented him working overseas.

Evans maintains his innocence, and an investigation into his conviction by the Criminal Cases Review Commission is under way.

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