Sheffield United have withdrawn their offer to allow former player Ched Evans to train with the club following his release from prison.
United had initially agreed to let Evans, who served two-and-a-half years of a five year sentence for the rape of a young woman in a hotel in 2011, use their training facilities, but now state ‘after ongoing and extensive deliberation’ that the offer has been withdrawn.
The club had acted on the request of the players union, the Professional Footballers Association, of which Evans is a member but since making that announcement on November 11, they have come under fire with patrons of the club’s community trust including TV presenter Charlie Webster and former Beautiful South and Housemartins frontman Paul Heaton resigning from their roles.
Some sponsors also intimated that they would think over their future involvement with Sheffield United, should Evans eventually be signed as a player.
But in a statement released tonight, the club stated that the offer to use the training facilities had been retracted and that they “recognise that a number of our supporters will be disappointed with this decision, but would ask that they remember the responsibilities we have not only to a fine and proud Club, whose history stretches back over 125 years, but also to the communities in which Sheffield United is active and to the City we represent.”
“Following the statement dated 11th November and after ongoing and extensive deliberation, Sheffield United Football Club has decided to retract the opportunity for its former player, Ched Evans, to use the Club’s facilities for training purposes, as was previously intended.
Members of the Board have consulted dispassionately with the Club’s supporters, Vice Presidents, Community Foundation members, executives, staff, sponsors and other relevant stakeholders in order to help it reach this decision. Also, the Club has been diligent in communicating with The Football Association, The Football League, The Professional Footballers’ Association (The PFA), The Football Association of Wales and The National Probation Service to take further soundings.
We recognise that a number of our supporters will be disappointed with this decision, but would ask that they remember the responsibilities we have not only to a fine and proud Club, whose history stretches back over 125 years, but also to the communities in which Sheffield United is active and to the City we represent.
The Club initially accepted a request from The PFA for Ched Evans to be able to train. The reaction to this has been at an intensity that could not have been anticipated when first announced.
As noted in previous statements from the Club, the legal system of this country provides for both the punishment and the rehabilitation of every person who has been found guilty of a crime. Sheffield United will not be used to promote the view that professional footballers should be treated differently, as has been the want of certain sections of the media and various commentators. In addition, we remain disappointed at some of the inaccurate reporting, misinformed views and commentary, as well as the actions of a minority of individuals on social media. Professional footballers must be treated as equals before the law.
The Club condemns rape and violence of any kind against women in the strongest possible terms. The Club is aware that Ched Evans is pursuing legal recourse via the Criminal Cases Review Commission in the determination he has to clear his name. We trust that he will be afforded a fair hearing.
During this whole period, we have been served a timely reminder of what we have been throughout our history: Sheffield United is a Family and Community Club that, even in times of adversity, will remain strong and grow from its experiences.
The Club will not be making any further comment on this issue.”