1. Ched Evans is set to be released from prison in October after serving half his five-year jail sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room.
His former club Sheffield United are now rumoured to be considering re-signing the 25-year-old, a move that has provoked a considerable backlash.
Over 60,000 people have signed an online petition addressed to the club’s chairman Kevin McCabe urging the club not to take Evans back.
The petition states: “Ched Evans was convicted of rape. It was a process of justice. To even consider reinstating him as a player at the same club is a deep insult to the woman who was raped and to all women like her who have suffered at the hands of a rapist.”
3. It adds:
“For the male leaders of the club to endorse him and ‘welcome him back’ is an absolute humiliation to all women who expect the men who commit gross acts of violence against women to pay for what they have done and part of that is relinquishing the celebrity they attained, and in this case used as a tool to facilitate the violence.
The clear message to young boys and men is that you will be forgiven for this crime. Women will not be believed when they accuse you of that crime even if a court believes them.
The message given is that men who commit such atrocious crimes will suffer only a small penance whilst the women they attack suffer for the rest of their lives. Sheffield United Football Club must not reinforce that message.
4. United have denied reports that manager Nigel Clough has personally been to visit Evans in prison.
However, the club did admit to The Star back in April that it had been in contact with the player “as part of its ongoing policy of providing a duty of care to former employees and their families”.
Kate Russell, the director of Rape Crisis England & Wales, told Sky News that while the charity supported the right of a convicted criminal to return to employment after serving their sentence, the club should think carefully about the message it would send to immediately re-employ Evans.
“If they choose to do that, which is their right, we urge them to seriously consider the impact that will have on huge numbers of their supporters and we urge them to make a very strong statement condemning sexual violence, condemning violence against women and girls and making it clear that misogyny, sexism, violence and sexual violence in particular won’t be tolerated within football,” she added.
5. Evans was convicted after a two-week trial in 2012 after the prosecution claimed he had sex with a woman too drunk to consent.
His girlfriend Natasha Massey told Sky he was determined to clear his name.
“If Ched wasn’t a professional footballer we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because that was his job before he went to prison,” she said.
“That’s part of the whole rehabilitation process when you leave the prison and you go back to work. All Ched wants to do is go back to work, do the job that he loves, play football, score goals and then just come home and have a family life.”
Evans has also launched a bid to have his conviction overturned.
Alan Smith, from the Sheffield United Supporters Club executive, told the broadcaster he believed most of the supporters would welcome back the striker.
Claiming he had been given assurances that Evans would be re-signed upon his release, he added: “He has served his time, he has served his sentence and we would have him back. Good players like that have got to carry on playing and if not for Sheffield United it would be for someone else, and we would regret that.”