Sheffield United have lost their first sponsor over the Ched Evans case after its nutritional partner – co-owned by city boxer Johnny Nelson – decided to withdraw.
Sheffield-based BFN Nutrition, a sponsor since this summer, provided nutritional supplements for players and had its name on the club’s warm-up kit but will ask for those to be removed.
Firm bosses instructed their legal team to begin withdrawing support yesterday, the day after Sheffield Olympian heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill said she wanted her name removed from the Bramall Lane stand if convicted rapist Evans was re-signed in the future.
Dan Hatfield, a director at BFN Nutrition, said: “We have supported Sheffield United for years but we don’t believe the stance they are taking with regards to Ched Evans reflects what the people of Sheffield want and what the fans want so we have decided to withdraw our support.
“United have been closed and secretive about this issue – we feel the lack of communication to the fans, business partners and sponsors is unacceptable.
“We believe that everyone has the right to rehabilitation but when they are flatly denying something that has been proved in court we cannot stand back and support them.”
South Yorkshire Police last night confirmed they were investigating ‘reports of abusive tweets’ against Jessica Ennis-Hill after she took her stance, saying role models should set a ‘good example’ to young people.
Her comments sparked massive debate on Twitter, with the majority of people, including United fans, backing her position.
But there were also some offensive and abusive comments towards the heptathlete and new mum.
One Twitter user’s vile abuse was so shocking it was reported to police. His account later appeared to have been removed.
But Jess supporters included Sheri Williams, who said: “Couldn’t agree more with Jessica Ennis-Hill over this!
“Footballers are idolised by boys of all ages.”
Roman Filipowicz said: “Some of the comments about Jessica Ennis make me ashamed to be male – and human.”
Sheffield United fan Richard Morton added: “So embarrassed and disappointed at our fans sometimes but it’s a minority.”
Evans, who is appealing against his conviction, has been given the go-ahead to train at the club this week, causing TV presenter Charlie Webster, pop star Dave Berry and businesswoman Lindsay Graham to resign as patrons.
Sheffield United’s Community Foundation has also distanced itself from the row saying it would be ‘disappointing’ if a decision ‘it has no involvement in’ hampered its charity work.