UPDATED: Sheffield United confirm Ched Evans training return

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Sheffield United have confirmed they will allow convicted rapist Ched Evans to train with the club ‘with immediate effect.’

In a wordy statement, the club revealed they received a request from the Professional Footballers’ Association for Evans to be permitted to train at the club’s facilities.

But they also insist they are not prepared at this time to decide upon whether the 25-year-old will be allowed to return to the club as ‘a registered footballer.’

KEY POINTS

- United received PFA request for Evans to train in order to to regain a level of fitness which would allow him to find a club. The request came to United as the last club at which Evans was employed.

- United are not prepared to decide at this time whether Evans should receive a new contract at the club

- United considered views of club staff, the Football League, the PFA, supporters and the general public in making their decision. Also taken into account was PFA statement declaring footballers should be treated as equals before the law, and Evans’ own statement acknowledging the ‘destructive nature of his acts.’ The club also spoke directly with Evans and his representatives.

- The club condemns rape, labelling it ‘a heinous crime worthy of serious punishment.’ Evans shares these value judgements.

- United do not question Evans’ conviction for rape and are satisfied he has completed the custodial part of his sentence and there are no restrictions barring him from returning to professional football.

- United recognises the justice system which has punished Evans also provides for his rehabilitation.

- The club agrees with PFA statement that footballers should be treated as equals under law.

- United reject suggestions extra punishment should be handed down on those who have completed their punishment, saying there can be no place for ‘mob justice.’

- United confirm they will have no role in Evans’ plans to clear his name, nor do they take any view on Evans’ case.

- The decision of the club has been taken on the facts as they stand today and are not influenced by Evans’ appeal.

- No further statement will be made by the club on this issue for the foreseeable future.

To read the statement in full Click here

News of Evans’ return to training with United broke on Tuesday morning, though the club remained silent on the issue until the early evening.

The news sparked a wave of people to quit the club’s community foundation.

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UPDATED: Sheffield United confirm Ched Evans training return.

Sheffield United: Club statement on Ched Evans’ training return in full.

Nigel Clough’s scheduled lunchtime press conference ahead of tomorrow’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash with Walsall was cancelled at the 11th hour.

Since Evans’ release from prison, United previously were yet to offer a public indication of whether they will allow the striker to play for the club again.

But allowing the Welshman to train with the club would be taken as a potential first step towards him pulling on the red and white shirt again.

Boss Clough said last month the ultimate decision on Evans’ future with the club would be made ‘above him,’ suggesting co-owners Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah Bin Musa’ad Bin Abdul Aziz were debating the issue.

Almost 157,000 people have now signed a petition urging the club not to hand a new contract to Evans due to his rape conviction, a figure which rose considerably with news of his return to training.

The BBC’s report today has provoked a fresh outcry on social media.

The campaign group Object said on Twitter: “Object stands in solidarity with the woman Ched Evans was convicted of raping and all other rape survivors affected by today’s news.”

@CMcLaughlin14 said: “Disgraceful that Ched Evans is being allowed to train with @SUFC_tweets. They should be ashamed. No-one else would get their job back!”

@SimonTOverall said: “Disgusting letting Ched Evans a convicted rapist back into training. Shameful @SUFC_tweets.”

However, there have also been messages of support for Evans.

@Ben_McQuaide97 said: “Why shouldn’t Evans return to football? Served his sentence now let him get on with it.”

@Shaunsufc2013 said: “Welcome back home Chedwyn. Now get them scoring boots on.”

@ryanhall10 said: “Too many United fans bothered about the image of the club. Bore off. Who cared what anyone else thinks.”

@Whale2901 said: “Good to see Ched Evans back. done his time, let him get on with his career and life.”

The striker denied raping the woman, saying the sex was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.

The prosecution said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.

Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald also admitted having sex with the victim but was found not guilty of the same charge.

An appeal against Evans’s conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012. His case is due to be looked at by the Criminal Case Review Commission.

After his release, Evans released a video on his website protesting his innocence and vowing to clear his name.

He said: “It is my hope that I will be able to return to football.

“If that is possible then I will do so with humility, having learnt a very painful lesson.

“I would like a second chance.”

Victims’ groups have condemned the two-minute video message.

Evans scored 42 goals in 103 games for the Blades, having previously played for Manchester City and Norwich City.