Ched Evans: Sheffield United will not let convicted rapist train
Sheffield United have retracted their offer to let convicted rapist Ched Evans use their training facilities.
The Blades had been heavily criticised for agreeing to allow Evans to train at the club after his release from prison.
Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill stated that she wanted her name removed from one of the Bramall Lane stands should he play for the club again.
The club said reaction to their initial decision "has been at an intensity that could not have been anticipated".
In a statement it said: "Sheffield United have decided to retract the opportunity for its former player, Ched Evans, to use the club's facilities for training purposes," adding that the U-turn followed consultation with supporters, officials, staff and sponsors.
"We recognise that 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, but also to the communities in which Sheffield United is active.
"The club condemns rape and violence of any kind against women in the strongest possible terms."
Evans was released last month after serving half of a five-year sentence for the rape a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in 2011.
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TV presenter Charlie Webster, 60s pop star Dave Berry and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham have all resigned as patrons of the club since Evans was invited to return to training, while musician Paul Heaton stood down as a patron of the club's community foundation.
Shirt sponsor DBL Logistics also threatened to end its backing of the club should Evans sign a contract to play.
Webster tweeted that Sheffield United had done "the right thing" in changing their position.
"It's the right thing for the club, its fans, its community and the victim. Sheffield United is a great club with a fantastic history and now its future can be fantastic too," she wrote.
More than 165,000 people have signed a petition opposing Evans' possible re-employment by the club, although some of United's fans have chanted support for the 25-year-old, who scored 48 goals in 113 appearances for the club before his conviction.
Manager Nigel Clough had previously said the Blades were "nowhere near" re-signing Evans and that the final decision on the matter would be taken by co-owners Prince Abdullah Bin Musa'ad Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and Kevin McCabe.
The Football League has said that "while we fully understand the gravity of the offence", if a request were received from any of its member clubs to register Evans, it would "have no option but to accept it".
Richard Caborn, former Sheffield Central MP, former Minister of Sport and Sheffield United fan, said that Evans' future as a professional footballer might depend on whether the Criminal Cases Review Commission overturned his conviction.
"I think the vast majority of people will welcome the United statement," he told BBC Radio Sheffield.
"I think United will have to wait, as indeed the rest of professional football will have to wait, until the decisions have been made by the courts of the land."