Oldham Athletic have decided against signing convicted rapist Ched Evans following threats to the club's "staff and their families".
A club director told BBC sports editor Dan Roan that a staff member was informed a named relative would be raped if the deal went ahead.
There has also been "enormous pressure from sponsors", the board member said.
Evans has released a statement apologising for "the effects of his actions" but maintains his innocence.
The Wales international was jailed in April 2012 for raping a woman.
He was released from prison in October after serving half of a five-year sentence and the owner of the League One club, Simon Corney, had said on Wednesday that a deal for the 26-year-old striker was "80% likely".
But after days of intense speculation Oldham have called off the move.
Greater Manchester's chief constable Sir Peter Fahy said his force would be launching an investigation into threats to the club's staff and their families.
"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."
More than 60,000 people signed a petition calling on Oldham not to sign former Sheffield United player Evans, while a number of campaigners and politicians voiced opposition to the move.
Club sponsors were told on Wednesday to prepare for confirmation of the Evans deal after days of negotiations.
That prompted Verlin Rainwater Solutions to end its association with the club immediately, while a second backer, ZenOffice, revealed it would sever ties if Evans signed.
It is the second time a club has abandoned attempts to sign Evans.
His former club Sheffield United ended their interest following another public outcry, with more than 160,000 people signing an online petition against his return.
Evans continues to protest his innocence, and an investigation into his conviction by the Criminal Cases Review Commission is under way.
Earlier on Thursday, Harry Redknapp, manager of Premier League side QPR, had told reporters Evans should be given a second chance.
He added: "Once you've done your time you've done your time, and somewhere along the line you've got to come out and make a go of your life.
"So it's a very difficult situation at the moment with the lad who is a footballer and wants to play football.
"He can't just not be allowed to carry on with his life."