Oldham Athletic have confirmed they will not be signing convicted rapist Ched Evans in the face of pressure from fans, sponsors, politicians and the general public.
The announcement comes after a tumultuous few days of harried negotiations with the PFA, mounting public outcry, and sponsors severing ties with the club.
The club had looked set to sign the former Manchester City striker earlier this week, but various pressures have steered the club’s hand.
“The whole issue has divided opinion and the club has been put under unbearable pressure as a result,” read the statement on the League One outfit’s website.
“Proceeding could have placed significant financial pressure on the club and continued to be a divisive influence. As a consequence the deal could not go ahead.
“As a club we condemn all crime including rape and irrespective of any appeal procedure it was always the case that we were prepared to withstand the barrage of abuse that is evident within the country and on social media.
“We deplore and condemn the vile and abusive threats, some including death threats, which have been made to our fans, sponsors and staff whilst this process has been in the public domain.
“Finally, we would like to place on record our gratitude to all who have supported the club during this difficult period, including the club staff, who have retained their focus throughout and in addition to Ched and his team who have acted with professionalism at all times.”
More than 70,000 people signed an online petition this week pleading with the Latics not to sign him, and local police and politicians have also voiced their concerns, eventually forcing the club to rethink their intention to sign him.
Jim McMahon, the leader of Oldham Council, said the issue had caused ‘intimidation, abuse and harassment’.
McMahon said in a statement: “I’ve always believed in rehabilitation but felt that both club and player should have allowed Mr Evans’ appeal to run its course before agreeing a contract.
“As it stands Mr Evans has been found guilty in a court of law and has not yet completed his sentence.
“However, I take no pleasure in this outcome. The whole episode has divided the town and public opinion and there are no winners in all this not least of all the reputation of our club and town.”
Leading sponsors also ended their association with the club over the controversial player.
Verlin Rainwater Solutions pulled out of its sponsorship deal, while a second backer, ZenOffice, revealed it would sever ties if Evans signed.
Sports Direct – the principal £1m sponsor – however, said they would stand by the club.
The Wales international has been unable to find a team since being released from prison in October after serving half of a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman in May 2011.
Evans apologised today “for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned”, though he maintains his innocence.
Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd, said: “The club has made the right decision by not signing Ched Evans.
“Whilst it is appropriate that there has been serious debate around this issue, all right-thinking people will be appalled by reports that individuals at the club and their family members have been threatened.
“Any such reports must be properly investigated by the police.”
The Criminal Cases Review Commission is currently conducting an investigation into Evans’ conviction, though it could take 35 weeks to reach a conclusion.
Main image courtesy of Sky News via YouTube, with thanks.