Why allowing Ched to return to football would not only be an insult to his victim but validate his act as a night of infidelity and not the heinous crime it was
The Chedwyn Evans rape case has polarised opinion, not only within the football community but also across the general population, since early 2012 when he was sentenced to jail for five years, to the current day where he is tastelessly and vehemently protesting his innocence. Most tragic of all is the treatment of his victim, whose ordeal is being forgotten in this media storm surrounding his proposed return to the football pitch.
As a passionate female football fan, the idea that Evans may be allowed to return to the sport in a professional capacity makes me extremely uncomfortable. The fact that some are even open to the idea is even more baffling to me. Undoubtedly many other fans also share my concerns, but there is a certain group of supporters who seem to believe that he should get the opportunity to pick up where he left off and continue a career in the spotlight, with all the perks that come with being a footballer. Just a week after he was released from prison, supporters of his club, Sheffield United, were heard chanting his name in the stands in support of his return.
Google ‘Ched Evans’ and you will come across his official website, with the opening statement ‘‘Ched Evans was wrongly convicted of rape on 20th April 2012.’’ Again, not one iota of remorse; instead a self-indulgent and comprehensive defence of his character and conduct. The content is frankly sickening, with options to ‘‘Write to Ched with Your Support’’, a statement written by his girlfriend signed off with ‘‘Justice for Ched’’, and personal ‘‘Letters from Ched’’ to update us on the struggles he faced while serving less than half of the already lenient original sentence.
This is a man who protests his innocence and dismisses the incident as a night of infidelity, all while his girlfriend is sat next to him as he addresses the media in a clearly choreographed video. It is painful to watch her and the façade that is being played out in front of the cameras.
Not just as a woman, but also as a fan that is pursuing a career within the industry, it is shocking and saddening that a heinous crime like this can be belittled and branded as ‘consensual’. If Evans gets the opportunity to resume his career, he will be earning tens of thousands a week, living life as an innocent man. What justice is there for the victim, whose name has been dragged through the dirt? What hope does that give to victims of rape? Serving only two years of a five year sentence is bad enough, but being constantly exposed to her rapist through news stories due to his profession is surely merciless.
As he pursues a retrial on the grounds of wrongful conviction, one can only think of his victim. Not only has she unlawfully had her name revealed in the press, but she will now have to relive the trauma once again. If the evidence is re-examined and Evans is found not guilty after a retrial, then his name can be cleared, but the nature of the crime and the manner in which he, his legal team and his supporters have conducted themselves, has been far from dignified.
Perhaps the only other comparable case is that of Marlon King, who was playing for Wigan Athletic when in 2008 he was convicted of punching a female in the face and sexually assaulting her and ultimately placed on the sexual offenders list for a period of seven years and jailed for 18 months. Despite more than 14 prior convictions, after his release from jail he was allowed to continue playing, until returning to jail for a further 18 months after a hit and run incident in 2013. Another player that has brought disgrace to the sport and should never, under any circumstances, be allowed to resume his career.
Many forget what a privilege it is to be a professional footballer. Not only because of the lifestyle and financial benefits, but because of the position and esteem they are held in by thousands of fans, particularly young children. What kind of example would the Football Association be setting by allowing a convicted criminal the opportunity to continue living in the public spotlight as though no crime was committed at all?
Most important of all is to think about the girl who was taken advantage of and now must rebuild her life. If there is any justice, Ched Evans will never take to the field again.