Evans allowed to train with Blades

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Published: Tuesday 11th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Shamed footballer and convicted rapist Ched Evans will train again with his former club – a move that has reignited angry calls for Sheffield United to cut all ties with the striker.

Press Association Sport understands the club have agreed to allow the Welsh international, 25, to train in order to recover his fitness following his release from jail last month.

But there is no move by the Blades to re-sign the player.

News of Evans’s imminent return to training provoked an outcry on social media, echoing the reaction after his release last month when United refused to confirm whether they will re-sign the player.

The campaign group Object said on Twitter: “Object stands in solidarity with the woman Ched Evans was convicted of raping and all other rape survivors affected by today’s news.”

‏@CMcLaughlin14 said: “Disgraceful that Ched Evans is being allowed to train with @SUFC_tweets. They should be ashamed. No-one else would get their job back!”

‏@SimonTOverall said: “Disgusting letting Ched Evans a convicted rapist back into training. Shameful @SUFC_tweets.”

The former Sheffield United striker served half of a five-year jail term after he was jailed in April 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, North Wales.

Many Blades fans have called for him to be rehabilitated, but thousands of people have signed an ongoing online petition urging the Bramall Lane club not to welcome him back.

Today’s news pushed the number of signatories over the 157,000 mark.

The striker denied raping the woman, saying the sex was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.

The prosecution said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.

Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald also admitted having sex with the victim but was found not guilty of the same charge.

An appeal against Evans’s conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012. His case is due to be looked at by the Criminal Case Review Commission.

After his release, Evans released a video on his website protesting his innocence and vowing to clear his name.

He said: “It is my hope that I will be able to return to football.

“If that is possible then I will do so with humility, having learnt a very painful lesson.

“I would like a second chance.”

Victims’ groups have condemned the two-minute video message.

Evans scored 42 goals in 103 games for the Blades, having previously played for Manchester City and Norwich City.

Rape Crisis England & Wales spokeswoman Katie Russell said: “What is especially disappointing about today’s news is that, once again, it comes with no strong statement from Sheffield United regarding their stance on sexual violence against women and girls.

“Rape Crisis and others have repeatedly called for football to make clear that they recognise the devastating, life-long impact of rape on those who survive it, and to reassure fans that sexual violence and misogyny won’t be tolerated in the ‘beautiful game’.

“With today’s clear move towards accepting a convicted rapist back into its squad without public comment, Sheffield United has once again declined to condemn the violent crime of rape and 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.”

Ms Russell said the abuse Evans’ victim has received, especially on Twitter, “gave the impression that football was not a safe or welcoming place for sexual violence survivors or indeed for women and girls”.

She said: “Over recent months, debate surrounding Evans’ release from prison has suggested this is still the case, highlighting that there remains a vast amount of victim-blaming myth and misinformation surrounding rape and sexual violence in our society.

“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.

“From its privileged position at the heart of so many communities, football has the opportunity to support Rape Crisis and others in our ongoing work to redress this injustice and to uphold the needs and rights of sexual violence survivors by raising awareness and understanding.

“Instead, it chooses to snub survivors and ignore public opinion by once again failing to explain itself.”

Published: Tuesday 11th November 2014 by The News Editor

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