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Sheffield United won't allow Ched Evans to train at their facilities after backlash

The convicted rapist and former Blades player was allowed to use their facilities at the request of the PFA, but that privilege has been revoked.

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Following a heated 10-day debate, Sheffield United have revoked the privileges of former striker and convicted rapist Ched Evans to train at their facilities. The club announced their decision in a statement on their website.

After Evans' release from prison, the Professional Footballers' Association requested that Sheffield United allow Evans to use their training facilities, which they acquiesced to. Their manager, Nigel Clough, said that the club was "nowhere near" signing their former player, but their decision to bring Evans back to the club in any capacity generated significant backlash.

Much of the backlash has to do with Evans maintaining his innocence. The header of his official website reads "Ched Evans was wrongly convicted of rape on 20th April 2012" and he refers to the incident that resulted in his conviction as 'an act of infidelity.'

Three club patrons quit over the club's decision to allow Evans to train with them, while their shirt sponsor said they would end their partnership with the club if Evans was signed. British Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill said that she would request that her name be removed from a stand named after her at Bramall Lane if Evans was offered a contract, for which she received rape threats on social media.

Given all of this, Sheffield United's statement about their decision to revoke Evans' right to train at their facilities was particularly tone-deaf. "The Club initially accepted a request from The PFA for Ched Evans to be able to train," said the club. "The reaction to this has been at an intensity that could not have been anticipated when first announced." Amazingly, Sheffield United failed to realize that they would be portrayed negatively and receive significant supporter criticism for allowing an unrepentant convicted rapist to train with them.

The club got a bit political in their statement, delivering a shot at those who would prefer that no professional club offers a contract to a convicted rapist.

"As noted in previous statements from the Club, the legal system of this country provides for both the punishment and the rehabilitation of every person who has been found guilty of a crime. Sheffield United will not be used to promote the view that professional footballers should be treated differently, as has been the want of certain sections of the media and various commentators. In addition, we remain disappointed at some of the inaccurate reporting, misinformed views and commentary, as well as the actions of a minority of individuals on social media. Professional footballers must be treated as equals before the law."

Disassociating themselves from Evans was a necessary PR move for Sheffield United, but this statement might prevent them from being seen as having made the right decision for the right reasons by their supporters, the patrons who quit, Ennis-Hill and the general public. They've told Evans to go elsewhere to train, but they're certainly not happy about it, and they're not making this decision quietly.