Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Trigger warning: rape

In case you haven’t heard of Mr Chedwyn Evans, let me give you a bit of background. A Welsh footballer who played for his national side as well as various league clubs, he was charged in 2011 with rape after a friend took an intoxicated 19 year old woman back to his hotel room and later invited Evans to join him. Evans gained entry to the hotel room by lying to the night porter, later leaving by an emergency exit in an attempt to keep his presence a secret. The jury acquitted Evans’ friend MacDonald, who had taken the victim back to the hotel. However they found Evans guilty of rape after the prosecution successfully argued that the victim, who suffered memory loss due to her level of intoxication, would have been unable to consent to sex with him.

Evans applied for leave to appeal twice in 2012 and was refused both times, with one judge quoted as saying “We can see no possible basis which would justify us interfering with the verdict of the jury”. In 2014 Evans appealed to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, an independent body whose responsibility is to examine whether miscarriages of justice have taken place. Fewer than 1% of cases investigated by the CCRC result in the Court of Appeal upholding an appeal.

In October 2014 Ched Evans was released from prison after serving half of his 5 year sentence. Soon afterwards the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) asked Sheffield United football club (SUFC) to allow Evans to train at their ground as they were the last club that employed him. SUFC agreed to this, sparking public outrage. Several club patrons resigned in protest and 2 sponsors made their displeasure known, with one threatening to remove their sponsorship if Evans was re-signed to the club. In addition the Olympic gold medallist, Jessica Ennis-Hill, demanded that the club remove her name from their stands if they decided to employ Evans once again.

On the 20th November 2014 SUFC announced that they had withdrawn permission for Evans to train at their ground. In part of their statement they said “As noted in previous statements from the Club, the legal system of this country provides for both the punishment and the rehabilitation of every person who has been found guilty of a crime. Sheffield United will not be used to promote the view that professional footballers should be treated differently, as has been the want of certain sections of the media and various commentators….The Club is aware that Ched Evans is pursuing legal recourse via the Criminal Cases Review Commission in the determination he has to clear his name. We trust that he will be afforded a fair hearing”.

The PFA have since released their own statement, part of which stated “We maintain our general position that the courts determine punishments and a return to society and a contribution to the community through employment is a key element of rehabilitation. We do not agree that society should impose different rules for footballers which go beyond the position of the law. In that regard, it is hoped that Ched will be given an opportunity at another club to return to the job he is trained to do”.

Both SUFC and the PFA seem to have completely missed the point of the recent protests. It has nothing to do with treating footballers differently, nothing to do with Sheffield United and in fact has nothing to do with football at all. It has to do with a convicted and unrepentant rapist being allowed to return to the career where thousands of people, including children, look up to him. If Evans had admitted his crime and shown genuine remorse then this probably wouldn’t be an issue. But you cannot rehabilitate a criminal who refuses to acknowledge that they have done wrong. It just doesn’t work like that.

SUFC’s hope that Evans “will be afforded a fair hearing” seems particularly disingenuous when you consider that he has attempted to deny wrongdoing 3 times already through the British legal system and has failed each time. Most people would consider that he has already had a fair hearing. In addition, Evans has so far failed to even attempt to rein in his supporters, many of whom abuse and threaten women who speak against Evans. This hardly helps his case. Neither does the fact that so few rapists are ever convicted of their crimes – approximately 1%. What are the chances that the police, CPS, jury and multiple appeal judges all managed to convict an innocent man of rape? Infinitesimally small.

I have no problem with Evans seeking employment. What I, and many others, do have a problem with is an unrepentant rapist continuing in a role where he is idolised. If he had been in many other careers he would have been barred from continuing his employment, and rightly so; however he would be free to seek other employment just as he is now. He hasn’t taken that option though, instead attempting to continue his life as it was before. Of course this isn’t a choice offered to his victim, who after being abused, hounded, named and hunted by Evans’ fans has had to change her name and move away from her family for her own safety.

By even considering allowing Evans to resume his career, the PFA and FA are making a rapist’s job more important than the experience of not only his victim but all victims of sexual violence. They seem to be saying that Evans’ ability to kick a ball is more important than a woman’s right to go about her life unmolested. And that’s what all the furore has been about. Not SUFC, not football, but a woman’s right not to be raped and the inappropriateness of a rapist as a role model.

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Comments on: "Ched Evans – it’s not about SUFC and it’s not about football" (11)

  1. Not entirely sure where I stand on the Ched Evans situation but there are at least two footballers I can think of, Adam Chapman and Lee Hughes, who did stints inside for death by dangerous driving and resumed their football careers once they’d done porridge.

    I’m confused that being responsible for the death of someone is apparently conducive to continuing a career in football while a conviction of rape isn’t. Football isn’t on the list of prohibited occupations for people either on license or the sex offenders register.

    • Did they admit what they’d done and show remorse? If so then I have no objection to them continuing in football. I would feel the same if Ched Evans had admitted his actions and shown remorse, but he didn’t.

      As for the list of prohibited occupations, I strongly feel that anyone convicted of rape, murder etc should not be allowed to work in a role where they’re idolised by children and idiots who should know better.

    • Lee Hughes and Ched Evans, upon release, both gave statements to the press. One of those players spoke of his regret, of mistakes that will live with him for the rest of his life and of never being able to forgive himself. He spoke of his desire to do community work involving young people to try and stop them from making the same mistakes he did. The other referred to his crime as infidelity, apologised only to his girlfriend and allows his supporters to abuse not only those with differing opinions but his victim. That is why Lee Hughes was allowed to return without much fanfare.

      Adam Chapman pleaded guilty to the charge, ad showed genuine remorse. That is why he managed to return.

      Luke McCormick is in the same boat as Chapman, except he came out, waited months and joined a non-league side. All the while he remained silent, got his head down and put in the work. That is why Luke McCormick now captains Plymouth.

      If Ched Evans had behaved like any of those three, his path back into football would be so much easier – if, on the other hand, he continues to show no remorse, football isn’t the only profession that won’t be offering him the chance of employment

  2. I should just say as a football fan I’m ashamed of the sport’s attitude to Evans. Julien Banc is quite rightly banned from entering the UK for holding views that encourage sexual abuse. So why is Ched Evans not banned from football for life for actually doing it? I don’t know if you like football but if you hate it I don’t blame you.

  3. The man served his time, if you have a problem with his lack of remorse, then your issue should be with the system that let him out early.

    • Because if he’d served the full sentence he would have suddenly realised that he actually is a rapist and been full of apologies? I’m not sure I understand your logic.

  4. My point is that if the legal system feels free to release him back to society, then there is no reason football shouldn’t either.

  5. But a sexual abuser would not be allowed back into certain jobs. Two examples. If Evans had been a teacher he wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near a school. If a TV celebrity is found guilty of sexual abuse he is not allowed on TV. The BBC don’t even show 1970s Top of The Pops repeats hosted by Jimmy Saville or Dave Lee Travis. There are some offences that are beyond the pale. And in my opinion the drink driver who killed two childre4n shouldn’t be in football either.

    • There is logical reasoning behind a teacher not being allowed back in schools. There is also no rule against putting a T.V. celeb back on, its all about ratings; Roman Polanski still wins Oscars.

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