Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor has apologised for appearing to compare Ched Evans’ attempt to clear his name with the Hillsborough disaster.
Taylor made the comments in a radio interview after it emerged that Evans’ proposed move to Oldham had collapsed amid threats to club staff and their families.
Taylor sought to clarify his comments on Friday morning, telling Sky Sports News: “The point I was making was not to embarrass or upset anybody at all among the Liverpool supporters. I’m very much an admirer of them and they know that.
“That was never my intention but it was the fact that how things at one time can be perceived one way but come out very differently with the passage of time.
“If people feel that way (offended) about what I said, I can only apologise.”
Evans, now 26, was jailed in April 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman. He maintains the sex in a Rhyl hotel was consensual and protests his innocence. He was released from prison in October, after serving half of a five-year sentence.
Evans' appeal against the conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012 and the case is currently being considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Taylor mentioned Evans’ situation alongside events that followed the Hillsborough tragedy, which resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest in Sheffield.
After years of fighting by the families of those who died, new inquests into the deaths began last year and are continuing in Warrington.
Speaking about Evans’ case on Thursday, Taylor had told BBC Radio 5 Live: “He would not be the first person or persons to have been found guilty and maintained their innocence and then been proved right.
“If we are talking about things in football, we know what happened, what was alleged to have happened at Hillsborough. And it’s now unravelling and we are finding it was very different to how it was portrayed at the time – indeed by the police at the time.
“He’s in a very difficult situation because he’s been put through a wringer and the minute you show any sympathy for Ched everybody will say ’Well, what about the other parties concerned?’
“And that’s why I’m making the point that nobody’s forgetting them.”
Taylor added: “Obviously it’s not a good time for him – he needs support like everybody in this particular incident needs support, not least the woman concerned.”
His comments provoked immediate condemnation on social media, with Liverpool fans leading calls for him to resign.
Just listened to the Gordon Taylor interview. What a ridiculous and insensitive parallel to draw.— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarrett) January 8, 2015