Former Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans has released a video statement apologising for the rape of a young woman in a hotel room.
Evans, filmed with girlfriend Natasha Massey at his side, says he is sorry for cheating on Natasha and “hurting the woman I love with all my heart”.
Evans says he has “constantly regretted” his act of infidelity and “the damage that has been done”.
The video was released via Evans’ own website, which his family uses to campaign on his behalf.
Evans says he is “determined to continue the fight” to clear his name and return to playing.
Wearing a dark shirt and tie, the 25-year-old Welshman said: “It is a rare and extraordinary privilege to be permitted to play professional football.
“Now that I have served the custodial part of my sentence of two and a half years, 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.”
Evans was released from prison on Friday having served half of a five-year sentence for raping the woman. Another defendant, Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald, was cleared.
Sheffield United have dismissed reports that the club has offered him a new contract.
Earlier today, the BBC was forced to apologise after presenter Michael Buerk criticised Evans’ rape victim for being drunk.
In a trailer for Radio 4 discussion show Moral Maze on the rehabilitation of criminals, Buerk said neither footballer Evans nor the woman he attacked emerged “with any credit” because she was so intoxicated “she could barely stand”.
His comments have incensed victims’ right campaigners who described the trailer as “damaging” and “deeply offensive”.
A Radio 4 spokesman said: “There was no intention to suggest that the victim was in any way at fault, and we apologise if the way this live trail was phrased suggested this.
“Tonight’s Moral Maze will ask whether a convicted rapist who maintains his innocence should be entitled to get his job back.”
The BBC said the programme will be broadcast at 8pm as planned. The discussion will focus on “whether the need for forgiveness and rehabilitation trump the need for continuing disgrace and the need to make an example of someone who for many should be a role model”, the BBC said.
In his trail for Moral Maze, veteran presenter and journalist Buerk said: “Nobody comes out of the Ched Evans rape case with any credit - not the victim who’d drunk so much she could barely stand, nor the two footballers who had sex with her in the most sordid of circumstances.”
Katie Russell, for Rape Crisis England and Wales, described Buerk’s comments as “dreadful”.
She said: “While Michael Buerk and the Moral Maze are both known for being provocative, it is difficult to stress just how inappropriate and potentially damaging this morning’s live trail from the presenter for his programme was.
“To infer that being drunk is in any way ‘morally’ comparable to committing the serious and violent crime of rape is deeply offensive and will undoubtedly have caused considerable distress to the huge numbers of survivors of sexual violence who will inevitably have been listening.
“Let us not forget that there is a rape survivor at the heart of this story, who is currently living with the devastating and potentially lifelong impact not only of having been sexually violated but of the terrible abuse she has subsequently suffered in the public domain.
“It is partly because of the kind of shaming, victim-blaming attitudes voiced by Michael Buerk this morning that currently only 15% of all those who are raped choose to report to the police.”
A statement from Evans on his future is anticipated in the near future.
Evans’s girlfriend, Natasha Massey, has led a campaign to have his conviction overturned, while internet vigilantes have outed the victim, whom Buerk described as “hiding like an IRA informer”.
Others have said Evans - who maintains his innocence - should not be allowed to resume a playing career.
TV presenter and Sheffield United patron Charlie Webster, who revealed in an interview earlier this year that she was sexually assaulted as a teenager, said she will quit her role with the club if they re-sign Evans.
Last night former Downing Street spin doctor Alastair Campbell told BBC3’s Free Speech he supported the idea of criminals being reintegrated back into society.
He said: “I think we’ve got to be very careful to say that somebody who has committed a crime, and has then served their sentence, and then should never, ever, ever be accepted back as a, if you like, a good member of society again.”
TV presenter Judy Finnigan sparked controversy last week during a panel discussion on ITV’s Loose Women by claiming Evans’s crime was “non violent” and did not cause “bodily harm”.
Her comments caused a wave of criticism, abuse on social media and also sparked threats against her daughter, fitness instructor Chloe, wishing rape on her.