Convicted rapist and former Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans should be given an opportunity to “return to the job he is trained to do”, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has said.
Sheffield United withdrew their controversial offer for the former player to use their facilities for training purposes on Thursday.
The PFA responded that it may be to the benefit of the club and Evans for the offer to be retracted, but added that it hopes the 25-year-old will “be given an opportunity at another club”.
It said: “We fully understand and respect the opposing views to Ched’s return to Sheffield United and clearly part of the issue related to him returning to the club he was previously with at the time of his imprisonment.
“With that in mind, it may ultimately be of benefit to both parties to move on and for Ched to look for a fresh start at a different club.
“We maintain our general position that the courts determine punishments and a return to society and a contribution to the community through employment is a key element of rehabilitation.
“We do not agree that society should impose different rules for footballers which go beyond the position of the law. In that regard, it is hoped that Ched will be given an opportunity at another club to return to the job he is trained to do.”
Sheffield United’s decision to allow Evans the opportunity to train caused four patrons of the club to resign.
Olympic heptathlon gold medal winner Jessica Ennis-Hill also asked that the club remove her name from one of the stands at Bramall Lane if the club opted to re-sign Evans.
Evans was released from prison last month after serving half of a five-year sentence following his conviction for raping a 19-year-old woman in Rhyl, North Wales.
He has always maintained his innocence despite being found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court in April 2012 and is currently appealing over the conviction.
Sheffield United’s statement explained that he had been allowed to train at the club following a request from the PFA.
“The reaction to this has been at an intensity that could not have been anticipated when first announced,” it said.
“As noted in previous statements from the club, the legal system of this country provides for both the punishment and the rehabilitation of every person who has been found guilty of a crime.”
It also said it trusted that Evans would be given a fair hearing at the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
TV presenter Charlie Webster, who resigned as a patron of Sheffield United after the club allowed Evans to return for training, responded on Twitter: “Sheffield United have done the right thing by not letting Ched Evans train with them. It’s the right thing for the club, its fans, its community and the victim.
“(Sheffield United) is a great club with a fantastic history and now its future can be fantastic too.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is MP for Sheffield Hallam, tweeted: “A sensible decision by Sheffield United regarding Ched Evans. Step in the right direction.”