CONVICTED rapist Ched Evans’ proposed signing for Oldham has fallen through due to the uproar that has surrounded the negotiations.
Sources close to the negotiations have confirmed that Oldham have decided against the move.
It comes just a day after Oldham’s joint owner Simon Corney said there was an “80 per cent” chance of the 26-year-old being signed.
The BBC, meanwhile, quoted an unnamed Oldham board member as saying the deal had been called off due to “enormous pressure from sponsors and threats to staff and their families”.
Evans was released from prison last October, halfway through a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman.
Corney believes Evans “has served his time” and said the decision to give the 26-year-old a chance had been agreed unanimously by all six members of the Oldham board - despite vociferous opposition and sponsors severing ties with the League One club.
Oldham have yet to officially confirm their decision but a spokesman said a statement was being prepared.
It will be the second time the club have pulled out of a deal to sign the striker, whose chances of finding a club willing to take him on now appear limited.
Sheffield United also decided against giving him a contract after initially agreeing to let him train with the club.
Jim McMahon, the leader of Oldham council, confirmed the deal is off and said the issue had caused “intimidation, abuse and harassment”.
McMahon said in a statement: “I understand Oldham Athletic’s move to sign Ched Evans is off.
“I’ve always believed in rehabilitation but felt that both club and player should have allowed Mr Evans’ appeal to run its course before agreeing a contract. As it stands Mr Evans has been found guilty in a court of law and has not yet completed his sentence.
“However, I take no pleasure in this outcome. The whole episode has divided the town and public opinion and there are no winners in all this - not least of all the reputation of our club and town.
“In recent days we’ve seen an horrendous ‘trial by social media’ with intimidation, abuse and harassment on a scale that has cast a terrible shadow.
“I am urging people on all sides of this debate to please now take stock, show some restraint and calm.
“We want to see Oldham Athletic prosper and that’s why we backed plans to redevelop Boundary Park to secure a positive future.
“I also believe that Simon Corney has the best intentions and ambitions for the club as its owner. I hope he and other board members now take stock and consider the wider interests of the club as a part of the community and as an ambassador for Oldham.”
Meanwhile, Evans issued an apology following the events that led to his conviction but maintained his claim that he is innocent.
Former Sheffield United and Wales striker Evans made his apology in a statement issued to the Press Association through the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA).
He said: “Whilst I continue to maintain my innocence, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologise for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned.”
Evans also condemned those “using social media in an abusive and vindictive way towards this woman”.
The PFA has also issued a statement to clarify its position in supporting Evans’ search to find a club.
It said: “We have had some discussions with Oldham Athletic regarding the interest they expressed in signing Ched, although we feel it is important to make clear that, contrary to what has been reported, we were not ‘driving’ any deal.
“As we understand it, the club and player were in discussions and contact was then made with the PFA as matters progressed given the particular circumstances of this situation and we were simply being asked to publicly reiterate our support for the club in signing him.
“Despite being ready to offer this from the outset, we were asked to delay whilst discussions between the club and player continued, and we were disappointed to see over the course of this week, comments being made which we feel mischaracterise our limited role in this matter.
“The PFA’s position remains the same, as we have expressed previously, that any club which decides to sign him would receive our support.
“We fully recognise that this is a delicate and emotive case and entirely respect that there are opposing views.”