Footballers’ union bosses say convicted rapist and former Sheffield United star Ched Evans should be allowed to play again after his release from jail.
The Professional Footballers’ Association insists the 25-year-old should be allowed to resume a career in the game when he is released from prison later this month.
Evans was jailed for five years in April 2012 after being convicted of rape – but has always maintained his innocence and is preparing a submission to the Criminal Cases Review Commission aimed at quashing his conviction.
Gordon Taylor, Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive, said: “As the representative body for professional footballers, our role includes representing members in respect of their professional careers.
“There are occasions where situations in a player’s personal life can impact on this. As a trade union, it is our role to offer help and guidance to all members whether dealing with success or the utmost difficulties.
“We have some current and former players in prison or who have been in prison.
“Some maintain they are innocent, while others accept their guilt; ultimately, any punishment of this nature follows a court process.
“It is a fundamental part of the justice system in this country that a person serves the punishment the court determines is appropriate and, providing that has been done, an individual is entitled to be released to continue with his or her life.
“Part of that is a return to their career and that remains the case for professional footballers as it does for any other individual.”
“We recognise these issues can provoke strong feelings. However, there must be recognition that if the justice system determines an individual has served their punishment, it is appropriate to allow them to return to the community.”
More than 60,000 people have already signed a petition urging the Blades not to re-sign the striker, although James D Phipps, club co-chairman, said no decision had been made.