My American readers will not know this story.
Ched Evans is a 26 year old footballer who has played for Wales. He should now be at the peak of his career but he has recently been released from prison having served two and a half years of a five year sentence for Rape.
Evans insists he is innocent. That the Sex with a 19 year old woman in a hotel room was consensual. The woman alleged …and it was accepted in court….that she was too drunk to wittingly give consent.
Ched Evans is not an unusual footballer. Scouted by Manchester Citys youth system, he made his way thru the “youth teams”. Signing professional, he was around the edge of their successful Premiership team but it was clear that he was never going to make the grade at that Premiership or European level. He was loaned to lesser clubs in lower divisions and eventually left Manchester City to join Sheffield United.
So far…so normal.
At Sheffield United, his career got a boost.
He was (probably) earning in the region of £10,000 per week. He became a regular in the Wales international team and scoring enough goals at a lower level to suggest that he could make a return to Premiership football (the highest level in England) with an average Premiership club.
Again…so far…so normal.
It is often the case in Football that players have to take one step back to take two steps forward.
And then it all went wrong in a Welsh seaside town. Facts are disputed. But suffice to say it involves two professional footballers, one young woman, one hotel room….and a rape allegation. Based on the young womans inability to knowingly consent.
Both players were charged. And prosecuted in court.
Ched Evans was found guilty.
His fellow professional footballer was acquitted. For the record, the second player feels that Evans is innocent.
So Ched Evans is aentenced to five years in prison. And released after two and a half years. His debt to Society paid. Or is it?
Ched Evans believes he is innocent of the Rape conviction.
His partner/girlfriend believes him.
So does her father.
Her father is a millionaire.
There is a campaign to appeal the conviction.
But Appeals take time.
And the career of a professional footballer is a short one.
As it turns out …the career of Ched Evans might already be over.
The only correct legal way…so far as I know…to describe Ched Evans is “convicted rapist” but that will look harsh if his appeal succeeds.
Evans wasnt to play football again. Sheffield United seemed anxious to re-sign him. But they under-estimated Media hostility and the reaction of their fans. Fans were in fact divided. But mostly they did not want a convicted rapist wearing the team colours. Importantly , the celebrity supporters were an important factor. Charley Webster is a TV presenter. She is involved in a charity which highlights domestic abuse against women. Jessica Ennis is an Olympic Gold medalist and has a stand named for her at Sheffield Uniteds ground. When she insisted that her name be removed if Sheffield United re-signed Evans, it was obvious that Sheffield United had miscalculated.
So Sheffield United dont sign Ched Evans. It seemed that Hartlepool United were interested but they too were scared off by the adverse publicity.
Now Oldham Athletic have agreed personal terms. The Sponsor …a local manufacturer of gutters (sic) is not happy. But thats not likely to concern Oldham Athletic. Seemingly the millionaire father of Evans girlfriend will underwite the losses. Allegedly Evans will play for minimal wage of a professional footballer….£400 per week.
But how will fans react?
Not just fans of Oldham Athletic. Not just their average crowd of 5,000. Or the 25,000 who signed the petition calling on Oldham not to sign him. “Away” football fans are not noted to be over-sympatheic to players with perceived weaknesses. It could be very easy to get under the skin of Ched Evans.
Getting a girl drunk and having sex with her may only be a recognised “crime” for a comparatively short period of time. Hard to believe that forty odd years ago, it was considered “normal”.
Which reminds me of the Norn Iron footballer….a local “hero” who had sex with his conquests while his team mates watched from the closets. Classy?