Sheffield United Football Club acknowledges the public discussion on the potential return of its former player, Mr Ched Evans, to professional football following the completion of the custodial portion of his sentence for rape in the courts of England and Wales. While some have speculated about whether the Club will or should invite Mr Evans to return to SUFC as a registered footballer, the Club is not prepared at this time to decide that issue.
The Club also acknowledges receipt of a request from The Professional Footballers' Association ('The PFA') to the effect that the Club consider allowing Mr Evans, who is a PFA member, to train at the Club's facilities. According to the request, this 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.
In response to The PFA's request, the SUFC Board of Directors has deliberated the matter internally, taking into consideration:
- The views of Staff, the Football League, and The PFA;
- The views of SUFC supporters and the general public as expressed in numerous letters and emails, social media comments, editorials, supporter websites, public petitions and media coverage; and
- The public statements of:
- The PFA, declaring that professional footballers should be treated as equals before the law, including in circumstances where they seek to be rehabilitated and to return to work in their chosen trade following periods of incarceration; and
- Mr Evans, acknowledging the destructive nature of the acts, which led to his conviction, and seeking a chance to be rehabilitated by returning to work in his chosen trade after having completed the custodial portion of his sentence.
In the course of its deliberations, the Board also spoke with Mr Evans and his representatives.
After due consideration, the Board has decided to respond favourably to The PFA's request and to allow Mr Evans to train at the Club's facilities. This decision, which takes effect immediately, is informed by the following four considerations:
- The Club condemns rape and violence of any kind against women in the strongest possible terms. More specifically, the Club considers rape, the crime for which Mr Evans was convicted, to be a heinous crime worthy of serious punishment as provided under law. The Club has been assured by Mr Evans that he shares these value judgements.
- The Club does not question Mr Evans' conviction for rape. The Club is advised that:
The Club recognises that the same justice system that tried, convicted and punished Mr Evans under law also provides for his rehabilitation under law.
- The punishment imposed on Mr Evans in connection with his conviction was consistent with applicable law;
- Mr Evans has completed the custodial portion of his sentence as provided under law, having demonstrated good behaviour while in custody; and
- Mr Evans has been paroled on licence conditions, which do not restrict him from returning to service in professional football.
- The Club agrees with the recent statements of The PFA, to the effect that professional footballers should be treated as equals before the law, including in circumstances where they seek to return to work following periods of incarceration. The Club rejects the notion that society should seek to impose extrajudicial or post-term penalties on anyone. In a nation of laws, served by an elected parliament and duly constituted courts of law, there can be no place for 'mob justice'. The Club believes that the only penalties following from a conviction on any charge should be those set forth in law and deemed appropriate by a court of competent jurisdiction.
- The Club understands that Mr Evans is pursuing legal recourse to clear his name before the Criminal Cases Review Commission and, if permitted, before the appellate courts. The Club recognises Mr Evans' right to appeal and to seek to clear his name as provided under law. The Club, however, takes no view on the merits of, and has no role in, any such appeal. The Club leaves all such matters exclusively to Mr Evans, his legal advisors and the justice system. The Club's decision to allow Mr Evans to train at the Club's facilities is based on the facts as they stand today and is in no way dependent on the perceived merits or outcome of the appeal.
Apart from this statement, the Club will not be making any further comments about this matter for the foreseeable future.