Oldham Athletic Football Club yesterday announced that they had agreed a contract with convicted rapist Ched Evans. Dom Kureen takes a look at the significance of the move and cites some other cases where convicted criminals returned to the sport.
In April, 2012, Welsh footballer Chedwyn Michael “Ched” Evans was jailed for the rape of a teenage woman in Rhyl, North Wales – having served half of his sentence and only shown remorse for his lost sporting years, in lieu of an apology to his victim.
That latter aspect is viewed as largely contentious for the former Welsh international striker’s legion of detractors, with Evans continuing to plead innocence and apparently viewing any statement of regret as an implied admission of guilt.
The return to the fray of a convicted rapist, a full two and half years before his sentence was complete, has sparked indignation amongst supporters and ambassadors of various organisations that he has found himself linked to, or indeed trained with.
Chief among these clubs are Sheffield United of League One, who allowed their former player to train with their squad for an extensive period upon his release, allegedly going as far as drafting an 18-month deal for his permanent return to the fold.
These actions caused outrage among club officials, supporters and affiliates, with a trio of Blades patrons relinquishing roles at Bramall Lane in protest, most notably Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton. Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill meanwhile threatened to follow suit if the player was re-signed, receiving dozens of rape threats on Twitter for her trouble.
With Sheffield United distancing themselves from Evans, the 26 year-old was linked to dozens of other teams, many feeling it necessary to formally deny any intention to bring him in, and condemning his previous misdemeanor.
Eventually Oldham Athletic FC decided that the impending spate of negative publicity would be compensated by the presence of a goal scorer to embellish their struggling setup.
The Latics have previous with similar issues; Colombian winger Cristian Montano was charged for his part in the gang-rape of a girl in Romford, Essex in March, 2014, eventually the jury failed to reach a verdict, and although a re-trial was mooted nothing came to fruition.
On that occasion the club did release the player, albeit citing match-fixing allegations, rather than the more pertinent issue in hand; the South American later becoming embroiled in a farcical case surrounding unfair dismissal.
Evans is certainly not the first footballer to return to action following a stint in the clink – here are three other notable cases.
Crime: Hit and Run.
Sentence: 6 years (served three)
A free scoring lower-league forward, Hughes had at one stage been the subject of a £5,000,001 transfer from West Bromwich Albion to Coventry City (a clause in his contract meant that Albion were obligated to accept any offer of more than £5m.)
Having returned to the Baggies, Hughes garnered a reputation for late nights and unpredictable moods. On a wet November night in 2003 the footballer drove into a father of four, instantly killing him, subsequently going into hiding for 36 hours, with suggestions that he didn’t want to re-emerge until his alcohol levels had plateaued.
Football club after release: Oldham Athletic (again!)
Oldham seem to have taken a shine to convicted criminals in recent years, snapping Hughes up shortly after his release in 2007, aged 31.
The forward enjoyed two productive seasons at Boundary Park, striking 26 goals before a lucrative move to big-spending Notts County, where he managed 30 League Two goals in his inaugural campaign.
At almost 39, Hughes continues to ply his trade in non-league for Forest Green Rovers, and is an integral part of their promotion challenge.
In May 2012 he was found guilty of common assault, and is reviled by a large section of those who know him best – a nasty little man who happens to have some talent as a footballer.
Crime: Gang-rape of an 11-year old girl.
Sentence: 7 years (Served three and a half)
Fleet-footed winger-cum-striker, Mboyo, from DR Congo, was regarded as one of his nation’s brightest talents as a teenager, receiving trial offers from the likes of Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan.
At the age of 17 he was found guilty for his role in the gang-rape of an 11 year-old girl in Belgium and spent the next three and a half years in prison, where he is supposed to have reformed his ways.
Football club after release: Charleroi
Belgian club Charleroi decided to give the then 21-year old an opportunity to rebuild his career, but he didn’t shine until K.V Kortijk snapped him up on a free transfer two years later.
A move to West Ham United fell through when Hammers fans filed a petition against his arrival, he instead secured a £3.5m transfer from Kortijk to fellow Belgian club Gent in 2011, where he was controversially installed as captain.
His off-field behaviour since release has been exemplary, with Mboyo raising money for women’s refuge charities, as well as speaking out against rape from the perspective of his own mistakes – obviously this doesn’t resolve his previous actions, but it at least suggests a change of attitude.
Crime(s): Dangerous driving, sexual assault + 19 other offences.
Sentence(s): Which one? Has done time on three occasions.
Marlon King completed a hat-trick of convictions when sentenced to 18-months for dangerous driving.
A mediocre Championship striker, the former Birmingham City and Watford journeyman’s procession of employers inevitably became weary of his criminal ways – with 21 convictions at last count, notably a 2009 sentence for sexual assault – a great example for his three children.
Football club(s) after release: Gillingham, Coventry City
Gillingham kept faith with their bad boy in 2002 after he served time for car theft, and he repaid them with a job lot of goals and £950,000 transfer kitty received from his move to Nottingham Forest the following year.
In 2010, Coventry City took advantage of his release from Wigan Athletic, their chairman and manager feeling “betrayed” nine months later when King reneged on a verbally agreed extension to join Birmingham City instead.
As alluded to, King is again gobbling porridge for his latest abhorrent act. Having variously punched a 20-year old female student in the face, received stolen goods and been put on the sex-offenders list, surely nobody will be stupid enough to take a punt on the 34-year old upon his latest release.
What do you think? Should Evans be allowed back into football? Why is it always Oldham Athletic extending the olive branch to convicted felons? Let us know in the comments below!