Sheffield United last night insisted that they will not allow “mob justice” to influence their decision on whether or not to re-sign Ched Evans.
United yesterday issued a statement confirming that the 25-year-old Welsh international will be allowed to train with the club, at the request of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), to regain his fitness following his release from prison last month.
United insist that no decision has yet been made on whether to re-sign Evans “at this time” - but failed to rule it out, which many fans will see as a route back for the disgraced striker.
Instead, the club believe that Evans, who served half of his five-year sentence in prison, has the right to return to work in his chosen trade.
“The Club agrees that professional footballers should be treated as equals before the law... and rejects the notion that society should seek to impose extrajudicial or post-term penalties on anyone,” the statement read.
“In a nation of laws, served by an elected parliament and duly constituted courts of law, there can be no place for “mob justice.”
“The Club believes that the only penalties following from a conviction on any charge should be those set forth in law and deemed appropriate by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
The decision, United added, was influenced, after “due consideration”, by four considerations:
n The views of United staff, the Football League and the PFA;
n Opinions of United supporters and the general public from letters, tweets and media coverage;
n The PFA’s public statement saying that Evans is entitled to return to his chosen career after being jailed;
n And Evans himself “acknowledging the destructive nature of the acts which led to his conviction, and seeking a chance to be rehabilitated.
During their decision making process, United officials met with Evans and his representatives and yesterday’s statement added the club’s belief that rape is a “heinous” crime.
“The Club has been assured by Mr Evans that he shares these value judgements,” it added.
Evans, who was convicted of rape in 2012, maintains his innocence and his case is to be examined by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
United signed Evans from Manchester City for £3million in 2009 and he scored 48 goals in 113 games for the Blades, who released him a month after his conviction.
The Football League released a statement of its own saying it would have “no option but to accept” any request from its member clubs to register Evans.
It said the decision over whether to sign him was one for individual clubs, who would have to make their own assessment of the potential off-field consequences.
A spokesman added: “At its most recent meeting, the board of the Football League considered the implications for football’s reputation of club’s employing players following their release from prison. The board has asked its independent directors to consider the matter further before reporting back to the board at a future meeting and then our clubs at an appropriate point.”
Read United’s full Evans statement at www.thestar.co.uk/blades.