Convicted rapist Ched Evans issues public apology, maintains innocence
Ched Evans has issued a "wholehearted apology" for the effects of his actions in 2011 but continues to maintain his innocence over his rape conviction.
Evans, whose move to sign for Oldham has fallen through, has also condemned social media abuse of the woman he was found guilty of raping.
In a statement issued to the Press Association via the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), Evans said: "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 it 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."
He added: "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."
Evans’ proposed signing for Oldham has collapsed after the uproar that surrounded the negotiations.
It comes just a day after Oldham’s joint owner Simon Corney said there was an "80 per cent" chance of the 26-year-old being signed.
One board member said the deal had been called off due to threats to staff and their families.
Evans was released from prison last October, halfway through a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman.
Corney had said he believes Evans "has served his time" and said the decision to give the 26-year-old a chance had been agreed unanimously by all six members of the Oldham board – despite vociferous opposition and sponsors severing ties with the League One club.
It is the second time the club have pulled out of a deal to sign the striker, whose chances of finding a club willing to take him on now appear limited.
Sheffield United also decided against giving him a contract after initially agreeing to let him train with the club.
Jim McMahon, the leader of Oldham council, confirmed the deal is off and said the issue had caused "intimidation, abuse and harassment".
McMahon said in a statement: "I understand Oldham Athletic’s move to sign Ched Evans is off.
"I’ve always believed in rehabilitation but felt that both club and player should have allowed Mr Evans’ appeal to run its course before agreeing a contract. As it stands Mr Evans has been found guilty in a court of law and has not yet completed his sentence.
"In recent days we’ve seen an horrendous ‘trial by social media’ with intimidation, abuse and harassment on a scale that has cast a terrible shadow."
The PFA has also issued a statement to clarify its position in supporting Evans’ search to find a club.
It said: "We have had some discussions with Oldham Athletic regarding the interest they expressed in signing Ched, although we feel it is important to make clear that, contrary to what has been reported, we were not ‘driving’ any deal.
"As we understand it, the club and player were in discussions and contact was then made with the PFA as matters progressed given the particular circumstances of this situation and we were simply being asked to publicly reiterate our support for the club in signing him.
"Despite being ready to offer this from the outset, we were asked to delay whilst discussions between the club and player continued, and we were disappointed to see over the course of this week, comments being made which we feel mischaracterise our limited role in this matter.
"The PFA’s position remains the same, as we have expressed previously, that any club which decides to sign him would receive our support.
"We fully recognise that this is a delicate and emotive case and entirely respect that there are opposing views."
Oldham chairman Simon Corney has reportedly quit as chairman, according to the Oldham Chronicle.
The local newspaper said Corney’s decision to stand down centred on "personal threats to family members" and that director Barry Owen’s position on the board was also in doubt.
The Oldham Athletic Supporters’ Trust issued a statement saying staff at the club had been subjected to threats and attacks.
It said: "This is an emotive issue and as such we would ask that all members and fans respect the views of their fellow supporters in the general debate. You certainly have a right to free thought and free speech, but we would ask that you please try to avoid abusive comments and conduct.
"We would especially ask all fans and others to respect the staff of the club who have unfortunately been subjected to extreme and unnecessary attacks and threats whilst doing no more than their jobs."