Disgraced ex-Sheffield United striker Ched Evans is still in talks with Oldham Athletic about the possibility of signing for the club.
The League One club is considering offering a contract to the 26-year-old, who was released from prison in October, mid-way through a five year jail term for rape.
But a petition urging the club not to sign the striker now contains around 30,000 names and one a sponsor has threatened to sever ties with Oldham if Evans is offered a deal.
Oldham board members held an emergency conference call yesterday to discuss developments.
Speaking afterwards, Chief Executive Neil Joy said the club would ‘continue to have conversations with representative bodies such as the Professional Footballers’ Association and will conduct due diligence with regard to any decision we make on this matter’.
Sheffield United offered the striker a chance to train with them last November but they retracted the invitation because of the backlash.
Evans maintains his innocence and his case is being considered by the Criminal Case Review Commission.
Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, said it would be ‘wrong’ for Evans to start playing again.
“As he is claiming his innocence and in the process of appealing against his conviction, both he and football clubs should wait for the outcome of this process before even considering a return to the sport,” she said.
Labour’s Shadow Minister for Sport, Clive Efford, called for the Football Association to intervene and not accept Evans’s registration as a player.
“There are many professions that people cannot return to after committing this sort of crime and football must be one of them,” he added.
Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd, urged Oldham against signing Evans .
“Ched Evans is a convicted rapist and, whilst I strongly believe in the principle of rehabilitation, it will send out entirely the wrong message if they offer him a contract,” he said.
Verlin Rainwater Solutions, which sponsors a stand at Boundary Park, says it would ‘be out of the door’ if Oldham went ahead with the signing.
Another sponsor, Mecca Bingo, tweeted: “We can confirm will be ending our association with @OfficialOAFC if they sign Ched Evans.”
But Web Applications UK, said it would continue to support the club irrespective of its decision.