As announced earlier today, and reported across all media including The72, Ched Evans is back in football. Evans, after four years out of the game, signed on for League One Chesterfield.
Evans has signed on a one year deal for the Spireites, whilst facing an October retrial after a quashed rape conviction.
Rape. A nasty, horrible and despicable word aptly suited to the act it describes. A word that eats like a canker to the moral soul of those who shudder when they hear it uttered. A word that conjures up pure emotion and anger as a reaction.
However, at this very moment Ched Evans is an innocent man.
The Court of Appeal 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 to its conclusion in October of this year.
Yet 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?
Should he be allowed to be a footballer. Or is being a footballer more than just being a footballer – if you catch my drift?
Free but not free
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.
Burt does say that Evans should not be precluded from gaining employment. 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 apply their own moralit. Football clubs should 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.
Chesterfield have given him that chance. Given an essentially presumed innocent until proven guilty man the chance that his innocence allows him.
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 have turned their backs on Ched Evans. Should either Evans himself or any football club have waited for the culmination of his retrial before any footballing activity can be undertaken?
Ched Evans is not a precedence
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 three years of a six 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.