Head of footballers' union sorry for Ched Evans gaffe

The head of the footballers’ union apologised after he compared the Ched Evans controversy to the Hillsborough disaster.

Head of footballers' union sorry for Ched Evans gaffe

Gordon Taylor’s comments prompted a storm of controversy after it emerged that convicted rapist Evans’s proposed move to Oldham Athletic had collapsed amid threats to club staff and their families.

The Professional Footballers’ Association chief 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.”

Amid widespread criticism, including an accusation of being “crass” and “inappropriate”, he returned to the airwaves to apologise.

He told BBC Radio Merseyside: “The last thing I intended to do was to upset anybody connected to the Hillsborough case.”

“I’ve long been a supporter of them (the Hillsborough families) so if that’s the impression they got, it’s a totally wrong one and I’m very sorry for that.”

In another interview on BBC Radio 4 Today Mr Taylor said he was “in no way” making a comparison between the two situations.

“It was the principle with regard to establishing the truth and his right to do that. Now as it has turned out...obviously I don’t want to offend anybody at the Hillsborough Family Support Group, we’ve always been supportive of them.

“The last thing I wanted to do was to offend any of them, it was quite the opposite.”

Professor Phil Scraton, the lead researcher and primary author of the Hillsborough independent panel report, said of Taylor’s initial comments: “To conflate this with the institutional failings and demonstrable injustices (of Hillsborough) is crass, it’s insensitive and it’s inappropriate.”

But Taylor’s apology was accepted by the families of some victims as they attended the inquests into the disaster in Warrington yesterday.

Barry Devonside, who lost his son Chris, said: “You have to accept it. It’s unfortunate it happened in the first place but he needs to think before he opens his mouth.

“He was foolhardy to make comments in relation to Ched Evans and the Hillsborough disaster. There is no connection between the two whatsoever.

“This isn’t the first time Gordon Taylor has been involved in a gaffe. He really needs to connect brain with mouth.”

The PFA has consistently supported Evans’s right to return to football after he served half his five-year prison sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel in North Wales.

But Sheffield United and Oldham Athletic have both abandoned plans to sign him amid a massive public backlash in which sponsors and patrons threatened to walk away if he played.

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