Ched Evans denies that he has committed rape, but the law says that he has. He has served two and half years of the 5 year sentence that he received, and he is now out on licence.
Ched is appealing his sentence. (Only 2% of people who go down this route are successful). He admits to having sex but denies it was rape. But it was his words that convicted him.
He wants to continue with his career, to return to professional football and clear his name. But what message does that give to victims and what message is Sheffield United giving by supporting him?
Nigel Clough, the manager of Sheffield United says that it is up to the owners of the club to decided whether he is reinstated, but this is just passing the buck. Either he wants him on his team or he doesn’t.
But the action that Nigel has taken in allowing him back to train with the team seems to be a step towards his reinstatement. Although it is possible for players to train with teams, it does seem to be a way of getting him back into the club.
Over 150,000 people have signed a petition stating that they don’t want him to play for Sheffield United, many don’t want him to play professional football again. This isn’t about revenge, it is about considering the feelings of his victim, her family and those people who want to watch football without a rapist being seen as a role model. Many victims of both sexes watch football, they don’t want to see him playing or hear the chanting that is going on. They don’t want to be faced with a rapist, appearing on tv on a weekly basis, nor do they want to have to abandon their clubs, because of one man, and a club and sport that is condoning his behaviour. He has brought his old club into disrepute and the game, he claims to love.
Whether you believe that footballers should be role models or celebrities is irrelevant, they are. They do have an influence on young people and this is not what we want from role models. We may not like what some other footballers have done, but there comes a point where you cross the line, and sexual violence and rape crosses it.
The next few days are generally acknowledged as The Sixteen Days of Action against Violence Against Women and for several years now football has been supporting the White Ribbon Campaign. Making a stand against domestic and sexual violence, but how do you make a stand and condone rapists at the same time? The work done by so many clubs will be totally undermined by Sheffield United’s stance.
No-one is saying that Evans can’t work, and it is acknowledged that returning to work helps rehabilitate offenders. However, when you don’t believe you are an offender, (despite what the law says), when you have a high profile – and ignore the impact that your personality has, you are snubbing rehabilitation. Many people in many roles/jobs/professions have to change their chosen careers after committing sexual offences and anyone with any sense of conscience would do that too. Footballers have a short career in the game, and have to move on, this is what Evans should do.
This is not an issue that you can sit on the fence on. You either condone his actions by letting him back on the field, playing professionally or you ask him to take on a different role, away from the limelight.
Sheffield United have now retracted their offer, after consultation with many different parties. They state “The legal system of this country provides for the punishment and the rehabilitation of every person found guilty of a crime”. But what they are missing is that rehabilitation can only happen once someone has admitted their crime. Mr Evans wants the situation to return to the pre-arrest one. This is not about rehabilitation but continuing as before, the only thing he is sorry for is for letting his girlfriend down.
SUFC also believe that professional footballers should not be treated differently, but many professions are treated differently. The website and the coverage that Ched has had is different, the amount of publicity that he would have as a player is different, the tv coverage that footballers get is different, the influence he has on young people is different, the status he has is different.
So if “Professional footballers must be treated as equals before the law” they need to act equally.
Hartlepool don’t want him, Malta Hibernians can’t have him, and now to Oldham.
……..And so it continues, with club after club, the outcry will not go away, sponsors will be contacted and on the whole will not want their names associated with rapists. Claiming that you don’t expect the backlash is feeble. It is time for football to take a moral stance. Enough is enough, and we have had enough!
So Ched has now been acquitted by a new jury, after a fresh trial. He is also playing for Chesterfield and may be recalled to the Welsh national team.
There have been many things that have come out of this trial and very few that are good. Some of his supporters have been vile; broken the law by naming the girl, and calling her all sorts. Ched has come out of it portrayed as a liar; a cheat; someone who is prepared to engage in threesomes and let others watch, and only remember his girlfriend prior to ejaculation and not talk to the person he is doing this with.
Whilst this was seen as an exceptional case, the damage that it has done to people’s confidence in the justice system is immeasurable.