Malta’s PM issues Evans warning

Published: Saturday 3rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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Malta’s prime minister Joseph Muscat has warned league leaders Hibernians their decision to offer a contract to Ched Evans risks damaging the country’s reputation.

But justice minister Owen Bonnici believes the convicted rapist deserves the chance to resume his football career having been released after serving half of a five-year prison sentence.

Hibernians announced on Friday that they had offered a deal to the former Sheffield United and Wales striker for the remainder of the season.

The 26-year-old had an offer to train with the Blades retracted in November following strong local opposition, while Tranmere, Oldham and Hartlepool also rejected the opportunity to sign him.

While reports that Evans might sign with a club in England led to public outcry, club official Jeffrey Farrugia suggested there would be no such reaction in Malta.

But a tweet on the verified Twitter account of Muscat’s office read: “Footballers are role models. Hibs decision will define them + to an extent #Malta. I hope (management) understand this clearly before final decision.”

Bonnici, though, feels Evans should be afforded the opportunity to resurrect his career.

“Ched Evans should be given a second chance. If we believe in rehabilitation of ex-prisoners we should practice what we preach,” Bonnici tweeted.

Hibernians, 15 points clear at the top of the country’s domestic league having dropped just two points in 16 games, confirmed on Friday they had made an offer to Evans.

Club vice-president Stephen Vaughan told Press Association Sport: “We are looking to secure the services of a top striker and Ched fits the bill.

“We’ve spoken to his agent and have offered a deal from now until the end of the season.”

Technical director Farrugia added on Sky News: “Our vice-president has offered the contract until the end of the season to this glorious player to come over to Malta and play for our top team. We are leading the table at the moment.”

Evans wants to return to football after being released from prison in October. He served two-and-a-half years of a five-year sentence after being found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2011.

He was initially given permission by Sheffield United to return to train with the club at the request of players’ union, the Professional Footballers Association.

But following a backlash from Blades supporters, sponsors and patrons opposed to Evans’ return – 160,000 people signed a petition against it – the club retracted the offer.

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios claimed the League Two club turned down an approach from associates of Evans’ about the possibility of him playing for the club, before League One Oldham last month denied reports they had offered Evans the opportunity to train with the club.

Friday’s n ews of Hibernians’ interest in a deal attracted criticism on Twitter, and much of it was misdirected.

Scottish Championship side Hibernian tweeted on Friday evening: “Just to clarify we are #Hibs of Scotland and not #Hibernians of Malta. Should that ever change we’ll let you all know. See you the morn, HFC.”

Published: Saturday 3rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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