Convicted rapist Ched Evans will not be permitted to continue his footballing career overseas with a Maltese side, after the Ministry of Justice stepped in to prevent the deal.
Football club Hibernians announced on Friday that they had offered the 26-year-old former Sheffield United and Wales striker a deal for the remainder of the season.
But in a statement, the MoJ said that, as a convicted sex offender on licence, Evans was effectively barred from working abroad.
"We are determined to have one of the toughest regimes in the world for managing sex offenders, to stop them re-offending and to protect victims," said an MoJ spokesman. "Probation officers must give permission for sex offenders on licence to take up new jobs and this includes ensuring they hold regular face to face meetings - this effectively rules out working abroad.
"The offenders will also be subject to strict conditions such as exclusion zones, non-contact orders and having to attend sex offender treatment programmes."
Activists started a Change.org petition calling for Evans to be barred from the move, and garnered 10,000 signatures in just a few hours.
"If Ched Evans was allowed to travel either long term or regularly in the short term it flouts the "robust" system on sex offenders the Conservative Party promised," said petition creator Jean Hatchet.
"Evans has served just half his sentence, he has shown no repentance for his crime or any concern for his victim who continues to be hounded and traumatised. This rapist has shown no repentance whilst his poor victim is still having to hide and move and is traumatised every day, probably for the rest of her life."
Evans was initially given permission by Sheffield United to return to train with the club at the request of players union the Professional Footballers Association. But following a backlash from supporters, sponsors and patrons - with 160,000 people signing a petition opposing his return - the club retracted the offer.
The offer by Hibernians - who currently lead Malta's domestic league by 15 points - had appeared to open up the prospect of a way back into the game.
But even on the Mediterranean island the move was controversial, with prime minister Joseph Muscat warning that it could damage the country's reputation.
A tweet on the verified Twitter account of his office stated:
Footballers are role models. Hibs decision will define them + to an extent #Malta. I hope mgmt understand this clearly before final decision— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) January 3, 2015
In contrast, Maltese justice minister Owen Bonnici said that he believed Evans should be given the opportunity to resurrect his career. "Ched Evans should be given a second chance. If we believe in rehabilitation of ex-prisoners we should practise what we preach," he said.
Evans was jailed in April 2012 for raping a woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, North Wales.
The player denied the offence, saying the sex was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.Suggest a correction