Ched Evans - How to treat a convicted rapist
There’s been a lot written about Ched Evans. Even if you’re not a football fan, you may recognise the name of a man who is far more famous (or should that be infamous) for his conviction for rape than he is for playing professional football.
Evans has claimed throughout that he is innocent, even though he was found guilty and has now served a sentence in jail.
Since being released in October 2014, having served half of a five-year service, he has been unable to find work as a player again.
Aged just 25, he is still arguably yet to reach his peak as a footballer, yet there remains a distinct possibility that he will never play again.
The club he spent three years playing for before his conviction, Sheffield United, were rumoured to be interested in resigning Evans, yet 166,000 people signedA remarkable figure when you consider that the club can barely get over 50% attendance of their 32,000 capacity stadium.
Just before Christmas it was revealed that Hartlepool were now looking to sign the striker, and yet again there was quickly a backlash towards the move, this time led by local MP, Iain Wright, a self-confessed Hartlepool fan.
My question is simple. Why should Evans not be allowed to sign for a new club?
The employment of a convicted rapist is sure to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of a lot of people, whether the employer is a Football League club or a fast food restaurant.
Evans was found guilty and has served his time. The fact that he maintains he is innocent is immaterial to anything regarding him finding a new club.
There is nothing to say that footballers have to be role models. Yes, it is widely accepted that footballers – simply by being in the public eye – have a moral duty to behave in a manner that is deemed suitable by casual observers.
Yet that argument avoids the very nature of a game which has, in almost every match, players surrounding the referee in an aggressive mood to challenge his decisions, or has players spitting on the pitch and swearing loudly.
There are also those that say that Evans has never showed remorse for what he has done, but then when a man continues to claim his innocence, how is he able to show remorse?
It’s also suggested that a man who commits a crime so evil as rape should not be allowed the luxury of going back to being a footballer. If that is the case, then we are choosing to ignore the fact that he has already been punished, in which case where should the punishment stop? Should he not be allowed to buy a lottery ticket, for example, for fear that he may win big and be rewarded with millions of pounds?
There is currently a review fast-tracked to look at Evans’ case.
In one possible scenario, they will again uphold the conviction. Evans has already paid the price for this by spending years in jail. Surely the man deserves a chance to start life as a rehabilitated person? There is an argument that extends from this which says that he is not rehabilitated at all if he continues to claim innocence over something that he has been convicted for, which I concede. There is no law stating that prisoners must show remorse for their crimes, unfortunately.
In the other possible scenario, the review will absolve Evans and find that he was wrongly convicted. He will have spent his early 20s in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit and he now runs the risk of having his career ruined because of it.
I can’t say I would be entirely comfortable if my club, West Ham, were to sign a convicted rapist. However, I would like to think that I would be open –minded enough to accept the decision if the player in question had served his time.
People are quick to claim that convicted felons need help to get back into work. That can only be much, much harder when you are in the public spotlight.
Evans needs his review to happen. Then he needs proper help in rehabilitation or a massive apology and exoneration.
He also needs a chance to get his life back on track.
Hartlepool have since refuted claims that they were trying to sign the player, and at the time of writing Evans is still without a club.