I find the whole Ched Evans story deeply disappointing.
Social media has led to a mob mentality: Evans blamed the collapse of a deal with Oldham on a mob mentality. David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Clive Efford, the Labour MP, have all voiced their unease about Evans being helped back into the national game, and none is an obvious exponent of “mob rule”. Equally I can’t quite see Jess Ennis as being the leader of a mob as she challenged Sheffield United to rethink their view on him returning to the club. Instead the mob mentality that led to the collapse of the deal was that of Evans’ supporters making death threats to the Oldham staff and their families. There were even suggestions one director was told the address where his daughter worked and that she would be raped if Oldham proceeded.
Footballers seem unable to talk about the importance of being a role model: I have not heard any professional or ex-professional footballer come out and talk about the importance of how they are a role model to influential young people. Last November, the chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke, described it as “not an important issue” on Newsnight, although this week he issued a statement saying that “it was important” to look at the issue of player’s behaviour, adding: “I would encourage the game to consider and discuss this matter and the prospect for future guidelines and codes of conduct.” The PFA and FA need to set up strict guidelines about how players can rehabilitate themselves, and inspire the young who regard them as role models.
A lack of apology: The apology has taken too long to come, finally arriving 83 days after he was released from prison, via the Professional Football Association (PFA):
“I am grateful for the support of the PFA in helping me try to return to football and continue my career.
“Upon legal advice, I was told not to discuss the events in question. This silence has been misinterpreted as arrogance and I would like to state that this could not be further from the truth.
“I do remain limited at present by what I can say due to the ongoing referral to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and whilst I continue to maintain my innocence, I wish to make clear that I wholeheartedly apologise for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned.
“Finally, it has been claimed that those using social media in an abusive and vindictive way towards this woman are supporters of mine. I wish to make it clear that these people are not my supporters and I condemn their actions entirely and will continue to do so.”
It is a classic PR written statement which apologises for the “effects that night in Rhyl has had on … the woman concerned” but not for his actions – it comes across like the child who is forced by a teacher to say sorry to another child for hitting them – they aren’t really sorry.
Henry Winter hits the nail on the head with this:
Evans’s next step on the road to rehabilitation must be to undergo an educational programme in which he learns respect for women and then works for the Professional Footballers’ Association in urging young players to avoid what has become known as “night games”.
Parts of the professional game have a misogynistic problem towards women, an arrogant outlook that the PFA should be confronting rather than embarrassing itself by trying to rush a convicted rapist back into professional football before he has served his sentence. Evans is out on licence. He should be allowed to return to football only when the judicial process is complete, and when he has shown proper contrition.
Footballers’ sense of entitlement, encompassing the “I’ve got a bird” culture, cheating on their partners, having sex with a woman too inebriated to give consent as laughing team-mates try to film events, before leaving through a fire escape, has now been challenged by the public.
Ditch the website: In addition I believe that Evans should take down his website. This website has fuelled his supporters who insist he is innocent, and yet fail to remember that he was found guilty by a jury and his leave to appeal was rejected by a Lord Chief Justice. This website includes asking visitors to “judge for yourself” from the uploaded CCTV footage from the night in question whether his victim was incapable with drink. It doesn’t come across as someone who is showing remorse.
The key to all of this is that Ched Evans is not the victim. She is.