The rape of a woman by former Sheffield United striker Ched Evans has been described as being ‘at the bottom end’ of the scale of seriousness by the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland.
The Association’s Stuart Gilhooly wrote an article on its website – later taken down – defending the disgraced footballer suggesting he could be innocent and, if guilty, deserves a second chance.
Mr Gilhooly described the rape as ‘alleged’, despite Evans being found guilty after a trial of attacking a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in North Wales and then jailed for five years.
Evans was released last month after serving half of his sentence and Gilhooly said he believes he deserves another chance.
He wrote: “There is little point in trying to dissect the legal niceties of this very complex issue but suffice to say that Ched Evans has a very arguable case that he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
“If having sex with a drunk woman is rape, then thousands of men are guilty of rape every day. The simple point is that degrees of intoxication are a very difficult concept for young men to grapple with when they themselves have had plenty to drink.
“This crime, as alleged, was at the bottom end. There was no violence and thankfully the victim has no recollection of it. This, I hasten to add, does not make it right, or anything close to it, but it is nonetheless a mitigating factor.
“It’s not easy to muster up too much sympathy for Evans but there is surely nothing worse than being accused of a crime which you genuinely believe you didn’t commit.
“The argument against that is that a jury convicted him of the crime. The same applied to the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. They got no public sympathy either.
“How can Evans apologise? He is convinced, and has a good argument, that he is not guilty of rape. If he apologised, then he is admitting a crime he feels he didn’t commit. Who would do that?
“But Ched Evans has served his time, whether he is innocent or guilty. He puts the ball in the net so eventually someone will take a chance on him.”
Gilhooly’s comments come in the wake of musician Paul Heaton’s resignation as a patron of Sheffield United’s Community Foundation over the club’s decision to allow Evans to train with the club.
Sheffield-born Sky Sports presenter Charlie Webster, sixties pop star Dave Berry and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham have all also resigned as patrons of the club since Evans returned to training.
Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill has asked for her name to removed from a stand at the club’s Bramall Lane ground if Evans signs for the club.