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Blades chief angry at Evans U-turn

22 November 2014, 06:11

London - Sheffield United co-chairman Jim Phipps said Friday he was "angry and upset" at the "mob-like behaviour" that led the Blades to go back on their offer to let convicted rapist Ched Evans train with the club.

United announced nine days ago that the 25-year-old Evans, a former Blades striker, would train with them following a request from England's Professional Footballers' Association to allow him the opportunity to regain fitness after his release from prison.

But the announcement provoked a public backlash, with Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill saying she would want her name taken off a stand at Bramall Lane if Evans were to be re-signed by United.

The furore led United to change course but Phipps insisted Friday the club's U-turn on Evans represented a "defeat for the principle that punishment under the justice system should be left to those that are authorised by law".

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"I'm angry that we are not able to get a chance to do for this footballer what should be done," Phipps said.

"But I acknowledge that my view is not the only view.

"My principles and the board's principles are not the only thing that matter."

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who is MP for a Sheffield constituency, was among those who had urged United to think "long and hard" before letting Evans play for the Blades again.

United, explaining the withdrawal of their offer to Evans, said Thursday the intense public reaction "could not have been anticipated when first announced".

And Phipps said Friday: "The influence of mob-like behaviour has made it difficult to take the simple step of allowing Ched to train.

"I will acknowledge that our decision to not let Ched train is probably a decision that will make it harder for him to get on with his football career in the immediate future.

"The people who believe that Ched should be punished for the rest of his life might call that a victory.

"I think of it as a defeat for the principle that punishment under the justice system should be left to those that are authorised by law."

Phipps's viewpoint chimed with that of the PFA, who said in a statement issued earlier on Friday that they hoped Evans might resume his career at another club as they did not agree that "society should impose different rules for footballers which go beyond the position of the law".

Evans was jailed in April 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, North Wales.

He denied the offence but was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.

An appeal against Evans's conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012.

But following his release from prison, he uploaded a video on his website protesting his innocence and vowed to clear his name.

Phipps, while regretting English third-tier club United's change of stance, said: "Clearly opinions are divided and we have learned the extent of that division. We have made a courageous decision to limit the damage."



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