After much speculation, Oldham confirmed yesterday that they are considering taking the highly controversial step of offering Evans a route back into professional football.
After a conference between board members, chief executive Neil Joy issued a statement under the heading ‘Ched Evans’ which said the club would “continue to have conversations with representative bodies such as the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) and will conduct due diligence with regard to any decision we make on this matter”.
Despite expectations to the contrary, there was no press conference to announce Evans’ signing and the 26-year-old did not train with the Oldham squad, as it had been suggested he would.
Evans’ future has been the source of debate since he was released last October halfway through a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman.
Sheffield United, with whom Evans last played three years ago, offered the striker a chance to train with them last November but they retracted the invitation after it caused uproar.
Hartlepool and Tranmere, both wary of a similar scenario, rejected the opportunity to enter discussions with the former Manchester City forward last year.
Oldham, however, chose to begin a second round of negotiations with the Welshman despite insisting last month that they would not sign Evans.
The Latics, 14th in League One, need a goal scorer to kick-start their stuttering season and in Evans they would get a striker who scored 35 goals in 42 appearances during his last season in League One.
But by last night, a petition calling on the club to not sign Evans, had reached almost 30,000 signatures.
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said he would not employ the Wales international, who has asked Britain’s Criminal Cases Review Commission to examine his case in the hope that it could lead to an appeal.
“He hasn’t shown remorse and I wouldn’t take him on,” Miliband told BBC Radio Manchester.
Oldham also stand to lose sponsorship revenue 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 signed.
Verling said: “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.
Chief executive Craig Dean said he believed it would be “unethical” to seek to influence the situation in either direction.
Oldham manager Lee Johnson chose his words carefully as he spoke to the 40-plus assembled media who had gathered outside Boundary Park yesterday.
The 33-year-old said: “I understand these are very difficult circumstances. Whatever the board decides, I will be a part of.”