Jacob Colley and Henry Woodsford give their take on whether convicted rapist Ched Evans should be able to return to work as a footballer.
By Henry Woodsford
On the face of it, there seems to be only one view on whether Ched Evans should be allowed to play football again, and it is a resounding no.
The former Manchester City striker was jailed for 5 years in 2012 after raping a 19-year-old girl but was released on Friday after serving only half of his sentence.
Football fans and the general public have stated their intentions via an online petition which has amassed close to 150,000 signatures urging his former employer Sheffield United not to re-sign the Welshman.
Sheffield United released Evans a month after he was jailed but current manager Nigel Clough has stated that the club are “thinking”of taking Evans back to Bramall Lane.
People forget that prior to his imprisonment, Evans was actually a very talented striker. He was establishing himself as a regular in the Welsh national squad and had an impressive record of 48 goals in just under 120 appearances for the Blades.
Although Evans should not be defended, he should be allowed to come back to work. He has served his time, his job is a footballer, why should he therefore not be able to find a new football club?
Chairman of the Player’s Football Association Gordon Taylor has come out and backed Evans to return to football. The game has a history of allowing players a second chance.
Lee Hughes was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving in 2004 and was given a six year sentence. He was released after 3 years and went on to play for 5 different clubs.
Luke McCormick also caused death by dangerous driving. He is now club captain at Plymouth Argyle, the club he was employed by at the time of his arrest.
The criminal justice system in our country allows us to reintegrate offenders back into society and subsequently back into the workplace with the aforementioned cases being clear examples of this.
This doesn’t mean that fans forget. Both Hughes and McCormick are constantly booed and jeered by opposition fans and some would argue deservedly so.
But once a footballer has served his time what are they supposed to do? They can’t be expected to find a new job, football is all they have and all they know.
Footballers are not like ‘normal’ people. They live in a bubble and do not know how to behave and operate outside of it. The majority of footballers hold no qualifications sufficient for them to find ‘normal’ jobs.
However, for every case of a footballer being rehabilitated and successfully integrated back into society, there is always those who just can’t seem to stay out trouble.
At one stage in his career, former Newcastle United striker Nile Ranger held the incredible statistic of having more prison sentences than career goals.
Marlon King is on the Sex Offenders Register whilst he has also been arrested for crimes ranging from criminal damage and dangerous driving.
Yet both Ranger and King have played for over 10 clubs in their careers with the former still currently contracted to Championship side Blackpool.
Why does football insist on allowing repeat offenders to be playing the game professionally? Why are they given contracts worth thousands of pounds a week?
Surely men like Nile Ranger and Marlon King are the ones who don’t deserve a second chance in the game, because they already had one and they blew it. Surely there should be 150,000 signatures on a petition stopping these types of men to play professional football?
Ched Evans, to this day, denies that he is a rapist. A statement on his website read that he will “continue to clear his name”.
There looks to be little sign that Evans will become a repeat offender unlike King and Ranger. Evans and McCormick deserve the second chance they get in football but some people are just not worthy.
By Jacob Colley
Following his release from prison Ched Evans has started a controversial debate about his right or lack thereof to play football again.
Many in the footballing world and indeed various voices from outside of the game have pledged their support for Ched Evans.
Despite serving only two and a half years of his five year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman, many believe that he has paid the price for his mistake and consequently should be allowed to continue plying his trade as a footballer.
In contrast, various people have argued that footballers are role models to young people and therefore signing Evans would put across the wrong message to said youngsters.
I however am supportive of the latter argument and believe that not only would signing Evans condone the act of rape but would also put Evans’ victim through yet more emotional trauma.
Jason Burt, of the Telegraph shares my concerns and points out that his lack of remorse for his actions is one of many reasons why Evans should never be allowed to play a professional match again.
I would second the opinions of Jason and add that if Evans cannot accept that he has made a mistake and thus refuses to apologise, then why should the public and more importantly the footballing world forgive Mr Evans?
It is also important to consider that the ONS recently revealed that the number of reported and recorded cases of rape to the police is up 29% on the figures of last year.
This worrying statistic is something which needs to be urgently addressed and a universal refusal to sign Evans would be a step in the right direction.
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, has given his opinion recently arguing that Evans has every right to continue playing football saying:“I didn’t know there was a law that said once you come out of prison you still can’t do anything”.
Although Taylor’s argument is strictly true, it is important for football clubs to not only consider the legal side of their actions but also the moral side too; just because there is no law against employing convicted rapists that doesn’t mean that doing so is ethically ‘right’.
It is also imperative for football clubs to consider the petition which campaigns against the signing of Ched Evans.
The petition has over 150,000 signatures to date. Such a high number of signatures make ignoring public opinion very hard indeed.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also weighed into the debate by stating that the owners of Sheffield United should ‘think really long and hard’ before deciding whether to allow Evans back.
Mr Clegg went on to add that the fact that footballers are regarded as role models to youngsters is something which needs to be seriously considered by Sheffield United.
Evans who has 13 caps for his country maintains his innocence despite him being found guilty at Caernarfon Crown Court.
His family have set up a website pleading his innocence claiming that: ‘This website is not about the severity of the sentence, we are stating that Ched did not commit the crime of rape at all.’
The website contains a video which Evans’ family claim shows that the victim was clearly sober enough to consent as she appears to be waking steadily.
Whether Mr Evans’ family believe he is innocent or not, until his sentence is overturned by the CPS he remains guilty in the eyes of the law which is ultimately what matters.
Ordinarily it could be argued that once someone has served their sentence they should be allowed to continue working. However, I feel different rules apply to a professional footballer.
It is not the same as if a convicted offender who happens to be a builder is released and he continues building.
Builders are not placed on a pedestal and regarded as role models. Footballers on the other hand are and should therefore set the example of how a good human being should behave.