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Published: Wednesday 7th January 2015 by The News Editor
The Football Association (FA) has been urged to intervene to prevent convicted rapist Ched Evans returning to the professional game.
Oldham owner Simon Corney has confirmed there is an “80%” chance of the club signing Welsh international Evans, who he believes “has served his time”.
Corney said the decision to give Evans, 26, a route back into football had been agreed unanimously by all six members of the Oldham board, despite vociferous opposition and sponsors severing ties with the League One club.
Labour has asked the FA to block the deal, arguing that allowing him to return to the game will undermine efforts to encourage female fans and players.
Shadow sports minister Clive Efford wrote to FA chairman Greg Dyke to say the decision should not be Oldham’s to take.
He said: “Ched Evans has been convicted of a serious offence and I would urge any football club to listen to the widespread public opposition to him returning to football.
“The decision on whether players should return to football after committing serious offences is not a matter solely for individual clubs and I have asked the FA to refuse his registration when Oldham Athletic approach them.”
In his letter he told Mr Dyke: ” As you are aware, there has been a great deal of comment regarding the possibility that Ched Evans will sign for Oldham Athletic this week.
“This has major implications for football as a whole and I do not believe that policy on a matter such as this should be determined by the board directors of an individual club. I am disappointed that the FA has not intervened to avoid this situation.”
Mr Efford added: “I believe the FA has failed to appreciate the seriousness of the crime for which Ched Evans has been convicted and the consequences that his return to the game will have on people’s impressions of the sport and its governing body.
“This is not consistent with the good work that the FA has done to promote the game as a sport for women and the reputation it has built in this regard could prove hard to regain.
“The directors of Oldham Athletic will be under pressure to take decisions that they feel are in the short term interests of their club. The question of whether a player convicted of rape should be allowed to return to professional football is not one that should be decided at this level.
“It has wider implications for the game as a whole and should have been decided by the game’s governing body.”
The Oldham chairman told the Jewish Chronicle: “We believe he has served his time. There is an 80% chance of us signing him. It won’t be done today. It’s not straightforward and there are some legal issues.
“There might be a cost implication, but you have to stick to your principles. We weren’t surprised by the backlash.”
Club director Barry Owen said talks were still in progress about a deal for the striker.
Speaking at the club’s Boundary Park stadium he said: “There are ongoing negotiations with regard to signing Ched Evans. Unfortunately, quite a lot of due diligence still needs to be completed. We are still in talks with the PFA and other agencies.
“At the moment I would just ask you to bear with us. There are things to be done, genuinely, and I don’t anticipate that it is going to be done over the next few days. If it is and it is possible to do anything for you, we will make contact with you and tell you what the circumstances are. We are a professional club and we do things in the right way with regard to the media.”
The possibility of a deal for Evans triggered a backlash from sponsors, with o ne, Verlin Rainwater Solutions, announcing it was cutting ties with the club immediately.
Craig Verling, a director of Verlin Rainwater Solutions, said in a statement: “After receiving the news regarding the imminent signing of Ched Evans, it is with great regret that Verlin Rainwater Solutions will no longer be associated with Oldham Athletic.
“We would like to take this opportunity to make clear that we feel that Mr Evans should be able to lead a life without further punishment after serving his sentence, although our feelings remain the same that this should not be within the public domain where his previous behaviour may influence the next generation.”
Another Oldham sponsor, ZenOffice, warned it would sever its five-year relationship with the club if the Evans signing went ahead.
A statement from the company said: “This partnership has been based on mutual respect as OAFC did share the same values as ZenOffice, based on family and community.
“ZenOffice do not agree that the current path OAFC are embarking on espouses these values. Therefore it is with much regret that ZenOffice would like to confirm that we will end our association with Oldham Athletic Football Club if the move goes ahead to sign Ched Evans.”
The club have been aware that some sponsors and the local council are unhappy at the prospect, but look determined to push ahead with the signing, while major sponsor Sports Direct – owned by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley – has remained silent on the issue.
More than 65,000 people have signed an online petition urging Oldham not to sign him, while even Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman has said that, as footballers are role models, clubs should “weigh their decisions very carefully”.
Oldham have previously given a second chance to footballers convicted of criminal offences. In 2007, they signed Lee Hughes after his release following a jail term for causing death by dangerous driving.
Published: Wednesday 7th January 2015 by The News Editor