Oldham Confirm Ched Evans Is Expected To Sign By Early Next Week

The owner of Oldham Athletic, Simon Corney, believes there is an “80% chance” his League One club will sign the convicted rapist Ched Evans. The businessman argues the 26-year-old striker, who served half of a five-year prison sentence for an offence committed in 2011, deserves a chance to resume his career. “We believe he has served his time,” Corney told the Jewish Chronicle. “There is an 80% chance of us signing him. It won’t be done today. It’s not straightforward and there are some legal issues.”

The prospect of Evans resuming his career at Boundary Park has provoked a strong reaction, with more than 65,000 people signing a petition protesting against the move and the shadow sports minister, Clive Efford, writing to the Football Association on Wednesday to ask the governing body to intervene to prevent Evans from returning to play football.

“The decision on whether players should return to football after committing serious offences is not a matter solely for individual clubs and I have asked the FA to refuse his registration when Oldham Athletic approach them,” Efford said.

In his letter to the FA’s chairman, Greg Dyke, Efford wrote: “I believe the FA has failed to appreciate the seriousness of the crime for which Ched Evans has been convicted and the consequences that his return to the game will have on people’s impressions of the sport and its governing body.” It is understood, though, that the FA has no rules under which to prevent the registration and Evans would be free to play again.

Corney said he understood the widespread concerns but he claimed the support of three unnamed Premier League managers and added: “I hope people don’t get too carried away and it doesn’t get too hot. I completely understand people’s views and I respect them. I would never tell people they are wrong to have their own views. But we want people to keep them in check.”

Although Corney stated the deal could happen “at any time”, he told the Jewish Chronicle it was likely to be confirmed before the weekend. However, Barry Owen, a board member who backs the signing of Evans on what would be a free transfer, hinted plans were in a state of flux and warned the deal may not be completed until next week. “There are ongoing negotiations with regard to signing Ched Evans,” Owen said. “Unfortunately, quite a lot of due diligence still needs to be completed. We are still in talks with the PFA [Professional Footballers’ Association] and other agencies. At the moment I would just ask you to bear with us. There are things to be done, genuinely, and I don’t anticipate that it is going to be done over the next few days.”

Commercially Oldham have already paid the price for the move to sign Evans. on Wednesday one of the club’s sponsors ended its association. Verlin Rainwater Solutions said: “After receiving the news regarding the imminent signing of Ched Evans it is with great regret that [we] will no longer be associated with Oldham Athletic. We would like to take this opportunity to make clear that we feel Mr Evans should be able to lead a life without further punishment after serving his sentence, although our feelings remain the same that this should not be within the public domain where his previous behaviour may influence the next generation.

“We sincerely wish the club a very successful future and have no regrets about being associated with Oldham Athletic over the past few seasons but feel our continued support would be sending out the wrong message.”

The restaurant chain Nando’s said it would be ending its relationship with Oldham and another sponsor, ZenOffice, is close to following suit, warning that its five-year relationship would be over if Evans signed. A statement from the company said: “This partnership has been based on mutual respect as OAFC did share the same values as ZenOffice, based on family and community. ZenOffice do not agree that the path OAFC are embarking on espouses these values. Therefore it is with much regret that ZenOffice would like to confirm that we will end our association with Oldham if the move goes ahead to sign Ched Evans.”

boundary park An Oldham Athletic employee distributes hot drinks to the press outside Boundary Park. Photograph: Dave Howarth/PA

Oldham’s main sponsor is Sports Direct whose chairman is the Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley. Although the company has yet to comment on the issue, it is thought Ashley is unconcerned. Mecca Bingo, another Oldham sponsor, threatened this week to withdraw its support. In a tweet it said: “We can confirm [we] will be ending our association with @OfficialOAFC if they sign Ched Evans.”

Corney, whom Oldham’s website states owns “97% of share capital”, purchased the Lancashire club during the 2003-04 season. The consortium was credited with stabilising Oldham, who had been in a difficult financial position and close to liquidation.

Evans, who was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2012, had been linked with Sheffield United, Hartlepool United, Tranmere Rovers and Malta’s Hibernians before either being turned down or, in the case of Hibernians, prevented from joining by the Ministry of Justice. Northumbria’s police commissioner, Vera Baird, who is from Oldham, called on Ashley to withdraw Sports Direct’s sponsorship if Evans signed. The Greater Manchester police commissioner, Tony Lloyd, said: “It will send out entirely the wrong message if they offer him a contract.”

Evans consistently maintains his innocence. An investigation into his conviction by the Criminal Cases Review Commission is continuing.

Oldham signed Lee Hughes in 2007 after he had been released from prison after causing death by dangerous driving.

  
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