Oldham appear not to have ruled out signing convicted rapist Ched Evans.
The former Sheffield United striker has been linked with the club as he seeks a return to football having served half of a five-year prison sentence.
And chief executive Neil Joy read a statement outside the club’s Boundary Park ground in which he said the club would “continue to have conversations” with the Professional Footballers’ Association and “conduct due diligence” on the potential signing of Evans.
Joy said in his statement: ``Oldham Athletic is not at this stage making any official announcement with regard to the speculation concerning Ched Evans.
“Whilst acknowledging the considerable media attention, we continue to have conversations with representative bodies such as the PFA and will conduct due diligence with regard to any decision we make on this matter.
“Although it has been reported that a press conference would be held, we will officially advise if and when any such event will take place.
“The club would also request that its stakeholders and partners’ position and privacy be respected until this matter has been concluded. We will not be making any further comment for the time being.”
Evans was found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2011 but has protested his innocence since being released in October.
The news that the club is in discussions with the player provoked outrage among fans, sponsors, local politicians and others in senior positions within the community.
As of 5pm on Monday afternoon, over 28,000 people had signed a petition urging the club not to sign the former Sheffield United and Manchester City forward.
Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd implored Oldham to stay away from Evans.
”Ched Evans is a convicted rapist and, whilst I strongly believe in the principle of rehabilitation, it will send out entirely the wrong message if they offer him a contract,“ he said.
”All offenders have the right to rebuild their lives and make amends after they have served their sentence, but Ched Evans’ lack of remorse and failure to acknowledge his offence means it is simply inappropriate for him to be on a Greater Manchester football pitch week in and week out presenting himself as some kind of role model, especially to young people.”
The club risks losing sponsors if they sign Evans.
Craig Verling, a director of Verlin Rainwater Solutions which sponsors a stand at Boundary Park, said the company would terminate its involvement with the Latics if Evans joined up with the League One outfit.
Verling told reporters: ”The club know our stance and that is, if they sign or allow Ched Evans to train we will be out of the door.“
Another Oldham sponsor, Web Applications UK, said it would continue to support the club irrespective of its decision over Evans.
The company’s chief executive Craig Dean said he believed it would be ”unethical” to seek to influence the situation in either direction.