After backlash at just about every potential landing point, Oldham Athletic appears to be the next club willing to risk its public image to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans.
BBC’s Dan Roan is reporting that Oldham Athletic is the previously unnamed team looking to sign Evans to a contract. The 26-year-old spent five years in jail after being convicted of raping a woman in a hotel. He was released from prison in October and has been looking for a team since.
His former club Sheffield United was initially interested in bringing him back and even offered him a contract, but after heavy backlash from both the fanbase and sponsors, the offer was pulled and Evans was no longer able to return. Clubs have treated Evans like a leper, and those who risked contact have faced the consequences. Hartlepool United also gave signing Evans some thought, and it wasn’t well received either.
All the back and forth has caused Evans’ group to declare any contact for his client must be of a serious nature, and quickly. “We’ve had a number of steps forward and a number of steps back. I’m not going to count my chickens,” player’s union chief Gordon Taylor told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek. If a club are looking to sign him they need to be 100% committed.”
Taylor added that the club had to “give their reasons for signing him and get on with it, rather than inviting public debate.”
Last month, Oldham denied reports they were in contact with Evans. The club is currently in 14th place in the 24-team League One table with 30 points, seven above the relegation zone and just three back of Sheffield United for the final playoff spot.
It’s odd why any club in the lower leagues would look to sign Evans, who isn’t a player of irreplaceable talent, when it’s clear there will be backlash, and in turn a hit to the club’s branding ability and marketability. From a club and business standpoint, signing Evans is a head-scratching move when there are likely other players available of equal or slightly lesser ability that wouldn’t come with such controversy and negative public debate.