It’s horrible. The crime of rape is simply disgusting and deplorable and when someone is found guilty it always saddens me. Worse still when it’s a young man who showed so much promise. Ched Evans was really starting to make a name for himself scoring goal after goal in League One this season for Sheffield United. So what does this mean for Evans and how should football react when one of it’s own is found guilty of such a crime?
I first became aware of Ched Evans as a young player at Manchester City who made his debut against Norwich. He showed a lot of potential and I was pleased when he joined the club on loan. Glenn Roeder’s Norwich side were terrible, but Evans certainly stood out as a player with a bright future in the game, scoring goals some of which were impressively spectacular, it was hard to imagine that he wouldn’t go on and accomplish a lot within football.
He secured a £3 million move to Sheffield United and although things took a while to get going, this season in League One has been his most successful yet as a professional netting 29 times as United push for automatic promotion. The loss of him for their final few games will come as a blow but the impact of his sentence my have far wider implications for the team and the game at large.
It’s sadly not the first time a footballer has found himself in the dock, although not on such a serious charge. Lee Hughes and Marlon King have both resurrected careers that had to be put on hold because of a custodial sentence. However given the length of his sentence a comeback for Evens would be much harder, although he does have youth on his side. The question is, should be ever be allowed to return?
I’m not entirely sure how the court were able to find Clayton McDonald innocent and convict Ched Evans, but the details of the case sound truly sordid and horrible so having been found innocent by the court does not cover up the fact that he was involved. Rape is one of the hardest crimes to prosecute so there can be very little doubt about the verdict especially considering it was unanimous, still I shouldn’t think that will stop those you think they know better than the court continuing to proclaim his innocence. For Evens the sudden realisation of what he has done and what he has thrown away should be all to apparent and when the guilty verdict was read to the court he broke down in floods of tears.
He is being punished for his actions by the court in relation to the laws of the land. Having served his sentence is it right that football impose another punishment on him and stop him playing again? I don’t think it is. As horrible as his crime is, unless you believe someone can be rehabilitated then what is the point in ever releasing him? Personally I think his sentence should be much longer, but that is not a matter for debate within football, that is a matter for lawmakers and judges.
It’s easy to say that footballers are role models and should be held to a higher standard, but society is responsible for making footballers into those role models. If people are worried that upon seeing the behaviour of Evans and McDonald young people are going to think that their actions are acceptable then the five year sentence should prove to be a stark warning. If that isn’t enough to convince people that what happened was profoundly wrong then there really isn’t anything that football or anyone else can do about it.
Once time is served he should be free to return to the pitch if he wants to. But if I was a manager would I want to sign him? No. If I was a player would I want to play with him? No. Trouble is, football has a notoriously short memory and if he comes out and gets back to fitness he could represent excellent value as a signing and sadly there are certainly Chairman within football who are unscrupulous enough to capitalise on this.
Sport can be a force for good and help bring about social change, the policy UK athletics takes towards drug cheats is commendable and the continuing work football has done and needs to continue to do against racism and other forms of discrimination is admirable but more can and should be done. The problem is that this is an issue away from football, so as much as I’d like to see football condemn the players and their actions and ostracised them from the game, I don’t think they will be. I don’t think it is the place of the F.A to step in and stop them trying to earn a living once the sentence the court has passed down has been served, regardless of how much they might want to.