Ched Evans: Oldham director will 'never regret trying to sign him'

Ched Evans: Oldham Athletic director Barry Owen has 'no regrets'

Oldham director Barry Owen says he has "no regrets" over the club's attempt to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans.

Owen says the financial implication of losing sponsors would have put the Latics' future in jeopardy.

"I will never regret it," Owen told the BBC's Football League Show.

"I am hugely disappointed for many reasons that I can't discuss."

Here Owen explains why Oldham wanted to sign Evans, why the deal fell through and how the striker reacted to the news.

'This was driven by football reasons'

Evans scored 48 goals in 113 games for Sheffield United and Owen said it was the Wales international' performances on the pitch that convinced Oldham to try and sign him.

"Oldham were going to get a footballer that in other circumstances they wouldn't have been able to afford," he said. "This was driven by football reasons."

In November, a month after his release from prison, Sheffield United retracted their offer to let Evans use their training facilities following another public outcry.

Owen says Oldham were "more positive" than the Blades and were "determined" to sign the player having carried out "due diligence".

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

'It came down purely to finances'

High-profile sponsors threatened to end their association with the club if Oldham signed Evans, and Owen said that forced the club's hand.

Mecca Bingo and Zen Office were among the sponsors who threatened to cut ties with the League One side, while Verlin Rainwater Solutions did so.

Owen said: "We knew there would be a storm to bear and were prepared to accept a lot of that and take it on the chin because we believed strongly in the right to employ this man.

"We did not anticipate the amount of sponsorship pressure, which was understandable because they were under extreme pressure.

"In the end it came down purely to the finances.

"We would have been in extreme financial difficulty with the withdrawal of sponsorships we would have had to withstand and it would have put the club into serious jeopardy."

Commercial director of Zen Office Bruce Davie said the company was listening to the fans

'I understand the opposition, but there are no rules against the signing'

Owen, a former Greater Manchester Police officer, said he "understood" and "empathised" with people's opposition to the signing of Evans.

"There is a fundamental right that the boy can work and I fully understand the opposition to it," he said.

"I have seen the effects of rape on people, which is frightening.

"All those points came into the due diligence which we carried out. We looked and balanced everything against them but at end of the day there are no Football Association rules against the signing, no laws in the land.

"There is nothing in there to say how we should go along the rehabilitation process or anything stopping us from proceeding.

"We [the board] are all family men, we are a small club and do not have millions of pounds to withstand the pressure put on us. Every one of the directors have daughters, the chief executive has family, many members of staff have families and they were supporting this lawful act we were carrying out."

'What should have been an angry young man wasn't'

Owen said Evans had accepted Oldham's decision with good grace.

"Whether that was because he can take no more disappointments because of his time in prison I don't know," he said.

"He fully accepted the pressure we were under in the end and I have to thank him and his team for the way they accepted the decision that was forced on us."

Owen, who has resigned as chairman of the club's supporters' trust after 12 years but insisted his decision had "nothing to do with recent events",external-link said the saga will only serve to make the club stronger.

He said: "We have to get up and move on. We have got a great club and a great spirit it has made us as directors and chief executive stronger for each other.

"It has been a great learning curve. We make mistakes, we will re-examine that and come back stronger for it."

Watch the full interview again on The Football League Show on BBC iPlayer.

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