Ched Evans: Sheffield United allow training return at PFA request

By Dan RoanBBC sports editor
Ched Evans
Ched Evans scored 48 goals in 113 games for Sheffield United

Sheffield United say they allowed convicted rapist Ched Evans to train with them following a request from the Professional Footballers' Association.

Evans, 25, was freed last month after serving two and a half years for rape.

A Blades statementexternal-link said: "After due consideration, the board has decided to respond favourably to the PFA's request to allow Evans to train at the club."

However, they are "not prepared at this time" to decide whether to re-sign the Wales international striker.

Ched Evans's career
Manchester City161
Norwich City (loan)2810
Sheffield United11348

The League One club's statement continued: "The club acknowledges receipt of a request from the PFA to the effect that the club consider allowing Mr Evans, who is a PFA member, to train at the club's facilities.

"According to the request, this training would be with a view to enabling Mr Evans to get back to a level of fitness, which might enable him to find employment in his chosen trade.

"This request has come to the club, because it is the last club at which Mr Evans was registered before his conviction.

"The club agrees with the recent statements of the PFA, to the effect that professional footballers should be treated as equals before the law, including in circumstances where they seek to return to work following periods of incarceration.

"There can be no place for 'mob justice'."

Sheffield United's statement was released at 18:00 GMT, eight hours after the news of Evans training with the club was broken by BBC Sport.

Evans released a video statement on his website in which he said he wanted to play again

The Football League said that "while we fully understand the gravity of the offence", if a request was received from any of its member clubs to register Evans, they would "have no option but to accept it".

Evans, who maintains his innocence, has scored 59 goals in 167 appearances during spells with Manchester City, Norwich City and Sheffield United.

He was sentenced to five years in April 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in May 2011, having been found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court. At his trial, he admitted to having sex with the woman but denied rape.

Evans was released from prison in October after serving half of his sentence. He has not offered any apology to his victim.

He has so far declined any request to be interviewed by the BBC, but released a video statement on his personal website, in which he said he wanted to play again.

An inquiry into his conviction is to be fast-tracked by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the body which examines potential miscarriages of justice.

Almost 157,000 people have signed a petition urging Sheffield United not to take the player back after the club chose not to renew his contract following his conviction. His deal expired during his incarceration.

Campaign groups have criticised the decision to allow him to train with his former club.

Rape Crisis England & Wales spokeswoman Katie Russell said: "Sheffield United has given no indication that they feel they have any responsibility towards the huge numbers of sexual violence survivors who follow their club or attend its matches.

"It has become clear that many people still consider rape in some contexts and circumstances more 'real', more harmful than others, and believe some rape survivors are therefore more 'worthy' of empathy than others."

End Violence Against Women Coalition spokeswoman Sarah Green said: "We are appalled that top football club Sheffield United are taking the first step to allowing an unrepentant convicted rapist back into their team this week.

"Footballers are critical role models for young men and women in particular, and the player concerned is now set to return to top-flight football when he has shown no remorse for his crime."

Sources maintain that Blades manager Nigel Clough is still to decide whether he wants the striker in his squad, and insist that allowing Evans to train with them does not necessarily mean he will be offered a fresh contract.

However, Clough has said that any decision on the convicted rapist is one for United's co-owners, Prince Abdullah Bin Musa'ad Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, and Kevin McCabe.

Meanwhile, television presenter Charlie Webster announced on Newsnight her resignation as a Sheffield United club patron following the club's decision to allow the player to train.

"Sheffield United are yet to make a decision or acknowledge the severity of Ched Evans's crime," said Webster, who previously revealed she was a victim of sexual assault and is a campaigner against domestic violence.