Ched Evans: Sheffield United shirt sponsor in quit threat

Ched Evans
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United during the 2011-12 season

One of Sheffield United's sponsors has said it will end its association with the club if they re-sign convicted rapist Ched Evans.

Three club patrons have resigned since BBC Sport revealed on Tuesday that Evans, 25, would train with his former club after serving a prison sentence.

But United manager Nigel Clough said it had "nowhere near been decided" whether or not to re-sign Evans.

Shirt sponsor DBL Logistics said it "strongly condemns rape and violence".

Charlie Webster announced her decision to step down as a patron on the BBC's Newsnight

A company statement read: "DBL Logistics would end its back-of-shirt sponsorship with Sheffield United if the club employed a convicted rapist.

"However, whilst the current situation remains and Ched Evans is not contracted to Sheffield United, DBL Logistics will continue its business to business relationship with the club."

John Holland Sales, which sponsors the front of players' shirts, said it will "re-evaluate" its position if Evans rejoins the Blades.

Clough, whose side were beaten 1-0 by Walsall in the Football League Trophy on Wednesday, told BBC Radio Sheffield: "How you can sign a player that has not played football for two years and seven months? I don't think anyone is in a position to do that.

"Believe it or not, it isn't the top of our priorities. We have four games in 10 days.

"Those games will determine if we stay in two cup competitions and whether we get back in the top six in the league. Those are our priorities."

Campaign groups have criticised the decision to allow Wales international Evans to train with the club.

TV presenter Charlie Webster said on Tuesday that she was standing down as a patron, saying the club failed to acknowledged the "extremity" of Evans's crime.

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

Two more patrons - 1960s pop star Dave Berry and school food and health adviser Lindsay Graham - stood down on Wednesday.

Berry told the BBC he "needed to make a moral stand", while Graham said she was standing down for "personal" reasons.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield wrote an open letter to Sheffield United co-chairmen Kevin McCabe and Jim Phipps urging the club to reconsider the decision to allow Evans to train with the squad.

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 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 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.

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

An inquiry into his conviction will 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 United not to take the player back after the club chose not to renew his contract following his conviction. His deal expired during his sentence.

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) asked United to allow Evans to train at the club in an attempt to regain fitness.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said: "As a trade union, it is our role to offer help and guidance to all our members, whether dealing with success or the utmost difficulties.

"We have some current and former players who are in prison or have served time in prison.

"It is a fundamental part of the justice system in this country and society in general that a person serves the punishment which the court determines is appropriate and, providing that has been done, an individual is entitled to be released to continue with his or her life."

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