When the news broke yesterday that convicted rapist Ched Evans had rejoined training with my football club, Sheffield United, my heart sank, writes Blades fan Olivia Rhodes.
My first thought was, ‘Of all the clubs in the world, why did it have to be United? Why my club?’.
My next thought made my heart sink even further, and made my first thought feel selfish. ‘How must she feel?’ The girl who has had her life ruined by Ched Evans, the girl who has had to change her entire identity and leave her friends and family because of Ched Evans. How on earth must she feel?
I love football, and I find it hard to imagine my life without it, but I am tired of the abusive culture that is still so embroiled in the sport.
I am sick of having to sit in the stands and listen to degrading chants about women, and I am sick of listening to a minority of supporters sing the name of a convicted rapist simply because he scored a few goals for us two-and-a-half years ago.
But, more than anything, I am sick of being told this is something I ‘just have to put up with’.
The people that sing these songs are the same people that think it’s okay to abuse women such as Charlie Webster on the internet.
They don’t think they are harming or affecting anyone.
As a woman, I can tell you they do. They make me feel undervalued and excluded from the sport I adore just as much as they do. Nobody should have to put up with abuse, sexist, racist or homophobic.
If Ched Evans re-signs for Sheffield United, we will become a club that supports and encourages the rape culture that tars our society.
We will be a football club that supports a backwards and abhorrent ideology that women are lesser than men.
He may have served a sentence, but without showing any remorse he is not a reformed criminal.
This is not about men versus women or football versus feminism. This is about the fact one in five women will be a victim of sexual abuse in their lifetime – something society must start taking action against. Sheffield United can either be part of the problem, or be part of tackling the problem.
The Star Editor’s opinon: No way back for Ched Evans