OLDHAM chiefs last night refused to rule out the signing of former Wales striker and convicted rapist Ched Evans despite a deluge of outcry at the proposed move.
The League One club said it would “conduct due diligence with regard to any decision we make on this matter”, while their manager Lee Johnson called it “a very difficult situation”.
Evans had been expected to be announced as an Oldham player yesterday, three months after his release from prison, but the controversial deal failed to materialise amid outcry from public figures.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, local police chiefs and the club’s sponsors all warned Oldham against signing the 26-year-old, who was jailed in 2011 for the rape of a 19-year-old woman and served half of his five-year sentence but continues to protest his innocence.
“I think that it’s right Oldham are thinking again about whether Ched Evans should be hired by them because you are a role model, he’s been convicted of a very serious crime,” said Miliband.
“If I was in their shoes, he hasn’t shown remorse and I wouldn’t take him on.”
Labour’s shadow minister for sport Clive Efford went further, urging the Football Association to refuse to accept Evans’s playing registration if a club sought to sign him, while Greater Manchester’s police and crime commissioner said it would be “simply inappropriate” for Oldham to sign the former Sheffield United and Manchester City forward.
Two of Oldham’s sponsors, guttering company Verlin and Mecca Bingo, said they would end their association with the third-tier side if they signed Evans.
Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner Vera Baird QC called on Newcastle owner and retail tycoon Mike Ashley to withdraw his company Sports Direct’s sponsorship of Oldham if Evans signs. Sports Direct agreed a five-year deal in July to be main shirt sponsor and take naming rights to the team’s ground.