Ched Evans: PFA chief Gordon Taylor backs player's return

Ched Evans
Ched Evans was released by Sheffield United following his conviction for rape in April 2012

Ched Evans should be allowed to play football again when he is released from prison, says Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor.

The Wales striker, 25, was jailed for five years for rape in April 2012 but is due to be released early this month.

More than 90,000 people have signed a petition calling on Evans' former club Sheffield United not to re-employ him.

"I didn't know there was a law that said once you come out of prison you still can't do anything," Taylor said.

The PFA chief, speaking to the BBC's Sport Wales programme, added: "As a trade union we believe in the rule of law... besides that, he still wants to contribute to society.

"If he earns money he'll pay taxes, those taxes will go to help people who maybe can't get a job."

Sheffield United signed Evans for £3m in 2009, but released him along with 10 other players the month after his conviction for raping a 19-year-old woman at a hotel near Rhyl, Denbighshire.

The South Yorkshire club has refused to comment on a possible return for Evans, who was capped 13 times for Wales before his conviction.

Meanwhile Wales manager Chris Coleman told a media conference on Thursday ahead of their Euro 2016 qualifier against Bosnia-Hercegovina on Friday: "I've not thought about Ched Evans. That story has come from outside our camp.

"It is not in my mind or the players' minds," he added.

"Bosnia is at the forefront of our thoughts... that is what we need to concentrate on. I think people understand that."

Gordon Taylor has been chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association for more than 30 years
Gordon Taylor has been Professional Footballers' Association chief executive for more than 30 years

The director of communications for Rape Crisis England and Wales, Katie Russell, said the charity was not questioning the right of Evans to return to employment but hoped "football would seize the chance to send a strong message condemning sexual violence against women".

"Obviously Rape Crisis completely supports and recognises the right of any convicted criminal to return to work after they've completed their sentence, that's not something we're disputing," Russell said.

"But we have to accept that in this case it is an incredibly high-profile figure who will inevitably return... where he will be highly paid, he will get a lot of profile and will be celebrated of course for his sporting prowess.

"We would say that the responsibility is really with the clubs and the football authority more widely to send a very strong message."

Russell continued: "They need to send a strong message that rape and sexual violence - and violence against women and girls more broadly - will not be tolerated within football."

Evans has always maintained his innocence and legal representatives for the striker are preparing a submission to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) aimed at quashing his conviction.

The CCRC is an independent public body set up to review possible miscarriages of justice in the criminal courts and refer appropriate cases to the appeal court.

The player's girlfriend, Natasha Massey, 24, has also publicly stated that Evans should be allowed back to his former club despite his conviction for rape.

Watch the full Sport Wales report on Ched Evans on BBC Two Wales this Friday, 10 October at 19:00 BST; available for seven days after transmission on iPlayer.

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