It was announced last week that convicted rapist Ched (Chedwyn) Evans, who has served half of a 5-year sentence for raping a teenage girl, is to start training again with his old club Sheffield United. Towards the end of last week I posted this screen-capture from the BBC news story on my Facebook account, with the question “Should Ched Evans be allowed to return to football?”. Quite a few interesting comments ensued, so I thought I would post the same question here on my blog.
To give a little of the background to those reading this who know nothing of this story, Ched Evans, who played professional football for Sheffield United and Wales, was convicted in April 2012 of raping a 19-year old woman in a hotel room in North Wales in May 2011. The details of the rape are rather sleazy, but if you wish you can read more about them here. He served half of his 5-year sentence (being released early is normal for good behaviour), and he was released a few weeks ago. Evans maintains his innocence, and although so far his appeals to the legal system have failed, he does have a “judicial review” in motion, which will re-examine the evidence on which he was convicted. In addition to maintaining his innocence, he has so far shown no remorse for what happened to the 19-year old woman.
It would seem that the Professional Footballers’ Association, the players’ union, have put pressure on Sheffield United to allow him back to play there. The club have not announced what they will do longer-term, but for the present they have allowed him to come back and train with them. As a consequence of their decision to do this, several trustees of the club have resigned, and some of their sponsors have threatened to withdraw their sponsorship. Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill, after whom a stand is named at the club’s ground, has said that if he is re-signed by the club she will ask for her name to be removed from being associated with the club.
What do you think? Should a convicted rapist be allowed to return to playing professional football? He has served his sentence, so shouldn’t he be allowed to just get on with his former life as he has “paid his debt to society”? Or, given the nature of his crime, should he be precluded from returning to such a high profile (and well-paid) career?