A CHARITY that supports rape victims has urged Sheffield United to abandon rumoured plans to reinstate footballer Ched Evans, who was jailed for raping a woman in a hotel room, after its official supporters’ group said he would be welcomed back.
Evans is due to be released in October after serving half of a five-year sentence imposed in April 2012. His former club, which released the player a month after his conviction, has refused to comment on reports that he will be offered a new contract, but Alan Smith, from the official supporters’ club, said he had been told Evans would be returning.
Rape Crisis England and Wales said Sheffield United had a responsibility to consider the “huge numbers” of sexual violence survivors who would be impacted should Evans return to the club.
Spokeswoman Katie Russell said: “What we have not heard is any strong statement from Sheffield United recognising how serious a crime rape is. If they take this step, they inevitably send the message out that they don’t think sexual violence is serious.”
Ms Russell said the charity was not against convicted rapists re-entering society, but the “unusual situation” of Evans’ high profile, the fact that he would be returning to a job he did when he committed the offence, and that he would be “celebrated as a role model” by young boys and girls made it an exception.
Evans denied raping a 19-year-old woman in a North Wales hotel, but was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.
He admitted having sex with her but the woman told the jury she had no memory of the incident. The prosecution said the victim was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse. An appeal against conviction was rejected.
On online petition urging Sheffield United chairman Kevin McCabe to refuse to reinstate the 25-year-old striker has received more than 60,000 signatures.
Yet Mr Smith believes the majority of United fans will want Evans back.
“I think that for most supporters it’s good he’s coming back because of what he did for us before,” he said. “I think that he’s served his time.”
Mr Smith said he thought many United fans believed Evans was wrongly convicted.
Evans’s girlfriend Natasha Massey has led a campaign to have the conviction overturned. She also believes he should be allowed to return to football even before any new appeal is heard.
She said: “Ched should be allowed to return to work.
“At the moment we don’t know which football club that would be with, but he loved playing for Sheffield United. He did so well there and he was happy there.
A Sheffield United spokesman said the club would not comment yesterday, but cited previous statements, which referred to the “lack of credibility and substance” to speculation regarding Evans’ future.
The FA does not advise clubs on re-hiring convicted players, but Sheffield United would not be the first Yorkshire club to do so if it took back Evans.
Shamed Sheffield Wednesday footballer Gary Madine rejoined the club in February after serving just four-and-a-half months of a 18-month sentence for attacking two men.