SPORT

Ched Evans Petition To Stop Convicted Rapist Returning To Football Signed By Thousands

13/08/2014 16:22 BST | Updated 13/08/2014 21:59 BST

More than 60,000 people have signed a petition urging Sheffield United not to reinstate convicted rapist Ched Evans as a player.

It comes as a supporters group claimed the Welsh international will be welcomed back to the club when he is released from prison in October.

The 25-year-old is due to be released then, after serving half of a five-year sentence imposed in April 2012.

ched evans

Ched Evans was jailed in April 2012

Sheffield United has refused to comment on reports that he will be offered a new contract after he leaves prison but Alan Smith, from the official supporters' club, said he has been told Evans will be returning.

"I've been led to believe that is the case," he said. "I've been told he will be back."

Smith said he believes the majority of United fans will want Evans back despite the petition urging chairman Kevin McCabe to refuse to reinstate the striker.

"I think that for most supporters it's good he's coming back because of what he did for us before," he said.

"I think that he's served his time."

Smith said he thought many United fans believed Evans was wrongly convicted.

He was jailed for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in North Wales. Evans denied the offence but was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.

He admitted having sex with her but the woman told the jury she had no memory of the incident.

The prosecution said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.

Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald also admitted having sex with the victim but was found not guilty of the same charge.

An appeal against Evans's conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012.

Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of the charity NIA which runs East London Rape Crisis, said: “Rapists, like most other convicted criminals have a right to rehabilitation after serving their sentence. But with Ched Evans, we’re not talking about someone simply returning to work, we’re talking about someone who is lauded as a role model and hero.

“Evans, despite a jury returning a unanimous guilty verdict and his losing two appeals against his conviction, is still refusing to accept that he committed a crime.

“He is still refusing to acknowledge that he raped a 19-year-old. His legal team has recently referred his case to the Independent Criminal Cases Review Commission in yet another effort to clear his name.

“Reading comments from Sheffield UFC supporters, it’s clear that many agree. Sexism and misogyny underpin male violence against women and girls. If Sheffield Utd allow Evans to return, they are sending a very clear message that to them, football is more important than male violence against women and girls.

“We can’t undo the harm that Evans caused to his victim but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about ending male violence against women.

“We already know that domestic violence increases during and immediately after England World Cup matches. We can contribute to change by sending out clear and consistent messages that male violence against women – including rape and domestic violence – is wrong; and one of the ways that we can do this by refusing to celebrate perpetrators.”

Evans’ girlfriend, Natasha Massey, has led a campaign to have the conviction overturned. She also believes he should be allowed to return to football even before any new appeal is heard.

She said: "Ched should be allowed to return to work.

"At the moment we don't know which football club that would be with, but he loved playing for Sheffield United. He did so well there and he was happy there.

"At the end of the day, it's what he did before and he wants to return to work. It's part of the rehabilitation process."

Massey said Evans was keeping fit in prison and spending time preparing for his second appeal.

She said: "He's preparing to come home. All Ched wants is to clear his name. We've put in a second appeal and he's focused on that."

A Sheffield United spokesman said the club would not be commenting on the Evans situation on Wednesday.