Sheffield United ‘dragging club through mud’ over Ched Evans - fan MP says

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Sheffield United fan and MP Paul Blomfield has told club bosses they are ‘dragging our name through the mud and dividing fans’ over Ched Evans.

Mr Blomfield, who represents Sheffield Central, decided to send an open letter to the club’s co-chairmen after the decision to allow convicted rapist Evans to train back at the club after his release from prison.

In the letter to Kevin McCabe and Jim Phipps, Mr Blomfield said: “It’s because I care so much about our club that I am writing to urge you to reconsider your decision to accept Ched Evans back to train with the team.”

Mr Blomfield said lots of constituents have contacted him over the last few months about the Ched Evans case as they knew he was a supporter.

His letter added: “I have not commented publicly on the issue until now because I was confident, on the basis of our discussions over several months, that you would make the right decision in accordance with the values of our club and because I didn’t want to add to the damage to our reputation by needless speculation. I also sought to reassure people who contacted me about the good intentions of the club. Sadly it appears I was wrong.”

Mr Blomfield also said that Evans - who is appealing against his conviction - had ‘trivialised his crime’ by describing it as an ‘act of infidelity’.

Although everyone deserved a second change, he added, with such serious offences as rape it was based on offenders recognising the gravity of their crimes.

Mr Blomfield added: “To take him back in these circumstances sends a disturbing message to young people and victims of sexual violence about how we view rape.

“It’s also regrettable that, in all the views that your statement says were considered by the board in reaching your decision, you don’t mention the victim whose father has spoken movingly of how her life has been, and continues to be, damaged by Ched Evans’ crime.

“The way this issue has been handled by the club is dragging our name through the mud and dividing fans.

“Yesterday’s decision only makes that situation worse. I really hope that you will reflect further and change your mind.”

The full letter is below:

Dear Kevin and Jim

“As you know, I’ve supported United through thick and thin for over 50 years, following the team home and away first with my father and then my son.

It’s because I care so much about our Club that I am writing to urge you to reconsider your decision to accept Ched Evans back to train with the team.

I have not commented publicly on the issue until now because I was confident, on the basis of our discussions over several months, that you would make the right decision in accordance with the values of our Club and because I didn’t want to add to the damage to our reputation by needless speculation. I also sought to reassure people who contacted me about the good intentions of the Club. Sadly it appears I was wrong.

In the statement published yesterday evening, you rightly say that “rape is a heinous crime” and that you do “not question Mr Evans’ conviction”. You also highlight the right to “rehabilitation under law”, with which I strongly agree. Everybody deserves a second chance, but with such serious offences this is based on offenders recognising the gravity of their crimes and seeking to make good for them. Since his release Ched Evans has not taken this first step towards rehabilitation, but has trivialised his crime by describing it as an “act of infidelity”.

So we are considering the case of an unrepentant convicted rapist. To take him back in these circumstances sends a disturbing message to young people and victims of sexual violence about how we view rape. It’s also regrettable that, in all the views that your statement says were considered by the board in reaching your decision, you don’t mention the victim whose father has spoken movingly of how her life has been, and continues to be, damaged by Ched Evans’ crime.

The way this issue has been handled by the Club is dragging our name through the mud and dividing fans. Yesterday’s decision only makes that situation worse. I really hope that you will reflect further and change your mind.

Yours sincerely,

Paul