In May 2011, Sheffield United striker Ched Evans and several friends were taking an end of season break in the North Wales seaside town of Rhyl. After an evening of drinking, they returned to their hotel with a young woman, where she was raped.
After a lengthy trial at Caernarfon Crown Court, Evans was sentenced on 20th April 2012 to 5 years in jail, with an assumption that he would only serve just over half of that tenure. Now, two years later, he is about to be released – and the real debate has started.
Sheffield United have been in contact with the player, and reports suggest they could be in advanced talks with a view to resigning the striker. Evans was prolific in his final season for the Blades, scoring 35 goals in all competitions in 2011/12. Manager Nigel Clough has admitted that the club are in talks with Evans but says no decisions have been made as yet.
This has of course given rise to some fairly fierce disagreement on whether they should consider taking him back or not. On the one hand, as many Sheffield United supporters feel they need to keep pointing out, he has now served his time and is ‘no longer considered a risk to society’.
This would mean he is now free to start contributing to society again, which in this case would mean scoring goals at Bramall Lane and entertaining the tens of thousands of spectators who go there for enjoyment and drama. Having served his time, should he be allowed to come out and begin to try and resume his former livelihood?
Many lobbyists, including more than 140,000 football fans who have signed an online petition, and various rape charities and foundations believe he should not. In a world where elite sportspeople are seen as role models to young men and women across the world, Evans is an extremely bad example. It is argued that if Sheffield United let him play for them again it would send out completely the wrong message.
Charities such as Rape Crisis England and Wales state that to reinstate Evans as a Blades player would trivialise rape, and that since Evans has not expressed any sort of remorse for his actions he should not expect to simply rejoin normal society.
Whatever decision Sheffield United (and indeed, the Football League) make in the next few weeks will tell us a lot about where the world of sport considers its allegiances to be – and it could prove to be a shock to the system.
Image courtesy of mirror.co.uk