The Court of Appeal has quashed Ched Evans’ rape conviction, essentially exonerating him and absolving him of the associated guilt.
With a now free conscience and a conviction expunged from his record, Ched Evans stands before the law as a free and guiltless man, although a retrial will likely be pursued.
But guiltless as he stands at this moment – albeit awaiting future retrial, is an entry back into football something that should be entertained for the former Wales player and Sheffield United striker?
Not according to those like Daily Telegraph journalist Jason Burt who commented on Evans’ release from the custodial sentence in 2014 and said that his position as a footballer meant that special consideration needed to be given to him working his way back into football. For Burt, it was a definite no. Burt said at the time: “There is a far more compelling argument in this case and it is to do with the privileged nature of the job that Evans does – as Taylor [chief-executive of the PFA] should also recognise – the crime he has committed, and the lack of remorse he has shown.”
Here, Burt argues that ‘doing time’ is not time enough and supports this view by referring to the prestige of Evans’ ‘job’ as one of the defining factors as to whether he should be employed again as a footballer. Whilst Burt does say that Evans should not be precluded from gaining employment, whilst he does say that football should not create laws that actively bar players from restarting their footballing careers, Jason Burt is appealing to the moral outrage that a despicable act that rape creates and saying that football clubs themselves apply their own morality and effectively ‘black ball’ Evans.
Is ‘time served’, time to move on? Ched Evans has stated his desire to play football again, to lace up his boots and resume what was a promising career. Just as there are those who abhor such a thought, there are also those who insist that he should be allowed to do just that.
One such advocate is Gordon Taylor, as mentioned earlier, the chief executive of the PFA who was quoted in a Guardian article by Owen Gibson, as saying: “It is a fundamental part of the justice process that a person serves his or her sentence and then is entitled to be released and continue with their life…These issues can provoke strong feelings but there must be some recognition that, if a justice system deems that a person has served their punishment, it’s appropriate to return to the community. No one is saying this is washed away.”
Will Ched Evans’ quashed conviction be enough to overcome the moral outrage of what he was accused of, convicted of and then ultimately what was quashed at the Appeal Court? Should football become a self-policing moral body, precluding those who fall foul of society’s laws, be they rape or otherwise?
Should the 92 League clubs and countless non-League clubs turn their backs on Ched Evans due to what he was accused and convicted of, before having that conviction quashed. Should either Evans himself or any football club have to wait for the culmination of his retrial before any footballing activity can be undertaken by Evans, before he can begin to get his career back on track.?
Ched Evans isn’t the first footballer to fall foul of the law for a serious crime, serve time and then want to make his way back into football.
In 2003 Lee Hughes killed father-of-four Douglas Graham in Meriden, Wales. He was jailed in 2004 and the court heard he fled the scene of the accident after his £100,000 Mercedes struck the victim whilst he [Hughes] was under the influence of alcohol. Hughes himself was released from Featherstone Prison (Wolverhampton) in 2007 after serving 3 years of a 6 year sentence.
Luke McCormick was twice over the drink-drive limit when, in 2008, he was jailed for just over seven years for killing two brothers, Aaron Peak (10) and his younger brother Ben (8) in a high-speed smash on the M6 motorway. When he returned to Plymouth Argyle, the club he played with when sentenced, McCormick was made club captain.
Marlon King, on loan to Hull City from Wigan, was sentenced in 2009 to 18 months imprisonment for sexually assaulting student Emily Carr (20) in a London nightclub and then breaking her nose with a savage punch when she rejected his advances. Upon his release he went on to play for Coventry, Birmingham and eventually for the very Sheffield United that Ched Evans played most famously with during his football career.