Sheffield United will allow convicted rapist Ched Evans to start training at his old club with immediate effect following a request from the Professional Footballers’ Association.
The Blades last night announced the club’s board had agreed to the PFA’s request.
The statement said, though, that the club were “not prepared at this time” to make a decision on whether to re-sign Evans.
United said his return to training would be “with a view to enabling Mr Evans to get back to a level of fitness, which might enable him to find employment in his chosen trade. This request has come to the club, because it is the last club at which Mr Evans was registered before his conviction”.
The club’s board of directors took into consideration the views of staff at the club, the Football League and the PFA, as well as Blades supporters and the general public in their decision to allow him to train with them. The board also considered the public statements made by the PFA and Evans, whom they spoke to during their deliberations.
Evans’ return has been met with outrage by campaign groups, with the group End Violence Against Women Coalition saying it was “appalled”.
United’s statement said the club “condemns rape and violence of any kind against women in the strongest possible terms” and considers “rape, the crime for which Mr Evans was convicted, to be a heinous crime worthy of serious punishment as provided under law”.
It added: “The club has been assured by Mr Evans that he shares these value judgements.” They said the “same justice system that tried, convicted and punished Mr Evans under law also provides for his rehabilitation under law”.
United added that Evans was seeking to clear his name before the Criminal Cases Review Commission and, if permitted, the appellate courts, but said it took “no view on the merits of” and had “no role in, any such appeal”.
The club were also clear they had made no move to sign Evans.
The 25-year-old former Wales international was released from jail last month after serving half of a five-year jail term.
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