Ched Evans: Convicted rapist and footballer issues apology
Footballer Ched Evans has apologised "for the effects" of his actions in 2011 but continues to maintain his innocence over his rape conviction.
Evans issued a statement hours after it emerged League One side Oldham Athletic would not be signing the player.
He was jailed in April 2012 for raping a woman, 19, at a north Wales hotel.
The 26-year-old said: "I wholeheartedly apologise for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned."
Evans later released a statement on his own website blaming 'mob rule' for the collapse of talks with the Latics.
Evans said "the more radical elements of our society" had the "desired influence on some sponsors".
He added: "The most significant issue for me was that owing to the threat of funding opportunities being withdrawn which may jeopardise the building of Oldham's new stand, it would mean that workers would lose their jobs and others would be put at risk - that would simply not be fair."
Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC North West Tonight he "believed in giving people a second chance" but that it was "unrealistic" for Evans to expect to get straight back into the sport.
He said: "Perhaps he needs to do more to put back in to the community some sense of atonement for what he's done before he restarts his career."
Wales international Evans was released from prison in October 2014 after serving half of his five-year sentence but attempts to resume his football career have met with widespread opposition.
Oldham issued a statement later on Thursday condemning "death threats to fans, sponsors and staff" while explaining their decision to pull out of plans to sign Evans.
"The whole issue has divided opinion and the club has been put under unbearable pressure as a result," read the statement.
"Proceeding could have placed significant financial pressure on the club and continued to be a divisive influence. As a consequence the deal could not go ahead.
"As a club we condemn all crime including rape and, irrespective of any appeal procedure, it was always the case that we were prepared to withstand the barrage of abuse that is evident within the country and on social media.
"We deplore and condemn the vile and abusive threats, some including death threats, which have been made to our fans, sponsors and staff whilst this process has been in the public domain.
"Finally, we would like to place on record our gratitude to all who have supported the club during this difficult period.
"That includes the club staff, who have retained their focus throughout and in addition to Ched and his team who have acted with professionalism at all times."
Sheffield United similarly shelved plans to sign their former striker in November, following a public outcry.
Evans had been criticised for failing to apologise to his victim, but, in a statement issued via the Professional Footballers' Association, he said: "Upon legal advice, I was told not to discuss the events in question.
"This silence has been misinterpreted as arrogance and I would like to state that this could not be further from the truth.
"I do remain limited at present by what I can say due to the ongoing referral to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and whilst I continue to maintain my innocence, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologise for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned.
"Finally, it has been claimed that those using social media in an abusive and vindictive way towards this woman are supporters of mine. I wish to make it clear that these people are not my supporters and I condemn their actions entirely and will continue to do so."
However Jill Saward, who campaigns for victims of rape, told BBC Radio 5 live she thought it was a "pretty weak statement that's been put together by solicitors".
She said: "Well I think it's too little, too late really. I think that the damage has been done, the damage has been done for years and particularly in the past three months since his release."
The PFA also issued a statement to clarify its position.
It read: "We have had some discussions with Oldham Athletic regarding the interest they expressed in signing Ched, although we feel it is important to make clear that, contrary to what has been reported, we were not 'driving' any deal.
"As we understand it, the club and player were in discussions and contact was then made with the PFA as matters progressed given the particular circumstances of this situation and we were simply being asked to publicly reiterate our support for the club in signing him.
|Plea to Oldham fans|
|Oldham Athletic Supporters' Trust statement:"This is an emotive issue and as such we would ask that all members and fans respect the views of their fellow supporters in the general debate."We would especially ask all fans and others to respect the staff of the club who have unfortunately been subjected to extreme and unnecessary attacks and threats whilst doing no more than their jobs."|
"Despite being ready to offer this from the outset, we were asked to delay whilst discussions between the club and player continued, and we were disappointed to see over the course of this week, comments being made which we feel mischaracterise our limited role in this matter.
"The PFA's position remains the same, as we have expressed previously, that any club which decides to sign him would receive our support.
"We fully recognise that this is a delicate and emotive case and entirely respect that there are opposing views."
The Oldham Athletic Supporters' Trust issued a statement urging fans to respect staff at the club.
"This is an emotive issue and as such we would ask that all members and fans respect the views of their fellow supporters in the general debate," read the statement.
"You certainly have a right to free thought and free speech, but we would ask that you please try to avoid abusive comments and conduct.
"We would especially ask all fans and others to respect the staff of the club who have unfortunately been subjected to extreme and unnecessary attacks and threats whilst doing no more than their jobs."
Greater Manchester Police's chief constable Sir Peter Fahy said his force would investigate threats to Oldham's staff and their families.
But GMP later released a statement that no threats were currently being investigated as they had yet to receive any complaints.
"It is totally unacceptable," Sir Peter told BBC Radio 5 live. "We will be contacting Oldham Athletic to make sure that it's investigated."
Jim McMahon, the leader of Oldham Council, urged "all sides of the debate to show restraint and calm".
"In recent days, we've seen an horrendous 'trial by social media' with intimidation, abuse and harassment on a scale that has cast a terrible shadow," said McMahon.
"The whole episode has divided the town and public opinion and there are no winners in all this, not least the reputation of our club and town."