true faith : What Should Football Say About Ched Evans?

by • October 19, 2014 • UncategorizedComments (30)1953

I’ve read and heard a lot about convicted rapist and former Sheffield United striker Ched womansilhouetteEvans’ potential return to football following his release from jail this week.

That’s because an awful lot has been written and said about it.  And much of it has troubled me.

I’d rather not think about men like Ched Evans, he is completely alien to my experience of men.

And I’d really rather not think about rape either.  I’m small and slight and almost every man I meet could hurt me if he chose to.  That thought almost never crosses my mind because I live among good men and in a society that does not tolerate violence.

That’s not to say my circle of family and friends has not been affected by rape, sadly it has, but I’ve never allowed this to colour my view of men.  Why would I?  There are bad and good people in the world.

But I have been very unsettled by a lot of the reaction to Ched Evan’s potential return to football, about the messages it would send out and, mainly, about the impact it would have on the woman Ched Evans raped.

Appallingly, she has seemed secondary to a lot of this debate.  She – a 19-year-old waitress at the time of the rape – has been raped, subjected to a horrific hate campaign that forced her to leave her hometown and is now at the centre of an awful, drawn out public debate about the worst thing that will, hopefully, ever happen to her.

But all-too-often people haven’t been talking about her, except to comment on whether what happened was her fault for being drunk.  The debate hasn’t been about how hard all of this must have been on her, it’s been about how bad the rape actually was and how the man who did this to her should, or shouldn’t, be allowed to resume his high-profile career in football.

It’s a discussion about Ched Evans’ career statistics versus the potential negative PR to have him employed by, in this case, Sheffield United.  It would be so, so much easier if he had no talent.  How simple to not employ him and take a moral stance then.

To be clear, I agree anyone leaving prison has a right to seek employment.  Ideally, that person would be rehabilitated, unlikely to re-offend and remorseful.  I believe in second chances.

Yes, Ched Evans has a legal right to seek employment within football and football clubs have the legal right to employ him if they choose to.  It is my fervent hope that football chooses not to employ him on moral grounds.

I’ve been told morals no longer exist in football.  I would like to believe that’s not the case and, if it is, that doesn’t mean we should accept it.

This isn’t a platform to go into the rights and wrongs of every man convicted of a crime who then returned to football.  My purpose in writing this is to give some kind of order to my own thoughts, my growing unease, about the possibility of Ched Evans returning to the game.

It is not about being vindictive or inflicting additional punishment, he has served his time in prison.  It’s about the voice of football and what it is going to say.

Is it going to say, it’s ok to cheer this man, to have his name on the back of your shirt, to raise him to the status of local hero because of the colours he wears and the goals he scores?

Or is it going to say, we could employ this man, we know we could benefit from his skills, but we will not tolerate rape and will not inflict further distress on his victim.

I’m sure about that last bit.  If he is employed within football again, she will feel further distress.  She will feel the rape, and everything she has endured as a result of reporting that rape, matters less than this sport.  Certainly, that’s been the tone of a lot of what I’ve read this week.

I’m sure the majority of football fans will at least feel discomfort seeing Ched Evans wearing their club’s colours, but he will be idolised by some in the stands.  In the most unpleasant way, by the most unpleasant people.

And the fans who chant that god awful ‘she said no’ song will tell themselves, and may believe, that they are standing up for the victim, but they’re not.  They’ll be referencing rape to ‘score points’ against a rival football team, bringing up this horrific event once again in public, every week for as long as he has a career in the game.

Ched Evans may feed off that negativity.  I imagine his victim would rather not hear it, would rather not be the subject of a football stadium back and forth about something this personal and painful.  She deserves better than this, than all of this.

I believe a major factor in all this debate is the fact that she was drunk when she was raped.  Had she been sober and dragged off the street, Ched Evan’s return to football would be unthinkable.

We should not need reminding that it is never, ever the victim’s fault.  It’s not a crime to be drunk but it’s incredible how often this is referenced by media reporting this story.  Try inserting the words ‘vulnerable and’ in front of ‘drunk’ next time you read it.

And this makes Ched Evans’ potential re-employment in football an even greater concern to me.  Because you would hope that the overwhelming majority of male football fans would never consider a violent rape on a stranger, but you can bet many will find themselves alone with a very drunk woman who is incapable of consent.

If he resumes his high-profile career it’s a message to them – it’s says, Ched was unlucky, he shouldn’t really have been convicted, it wasn’t that bad, it was her fault really, here’s your hero.

I don’t think for one moment that I would be able to return to my job (as a freelance PR) if I was convicted of a violent crime against a vulnerable person.  I would have to find other employment and I suspect that would be the case for many people.

Other entertainment industries appear to have an informal moral code we agree with.  Nobody would be happy to have Jim’ll Fix It back on our television screens.  There would be an outcry.  I don’t understand why football should be different.

Ian Birrell wrote about rehabilitation and Ched Evans’ right to return to football in The Guardian today.

He wrote: “A rapist footballer cannot be equated with a fraudster trying to get a job in finance, or a paedophile teacher seeking work in a school, when there are obvious reasons to bar their return to a job. He is simply a sportsman.”

I value women over financial institutions that may fall victim to a fraudster (thankfully, we can all agree on the paedophile teacher analogy) and Ian is referring to a sportsman who will play in front of women and work with women.

A high-profile sportsman, now more high-profile than ever, who will appear on television and radio, in the press, in fanzines and on social media, in front of women.

A woman, specifically a woman given the nature of this crime, is the victim here.  That is one compelling reason to “bar his return.”

Violence against women is endemic, the sentencing of domestic abusers, when they are actually brought to court, is shamefully lenient.  That, and the sentencing for rape offences, is another story but it is relevant here.  Here, where a woman has literally been ‘named and shamed’ and faces still more abuse.

Reported rapes rose by 29% in England and Wales last year.  If we want victims to come forward, this would be a good time to send them a message.

Football is a game I love.  It has brought me fantastic friends and helped shape my career.  Today, it has the chance to say something meaningful to the victim of Ched Evans, to me – to all women.

If it chose to, it could say: we, football, this male-dominated industry, will not tolerate violence towards you, we believe in you, we will support you.



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30 Responses to true faith : What Should Football Say About Ched Evans?

  1. A very well written aand presented piece. I hope that the ” powers that be ” at Sheffield united see it before making their final decision in this matter.

  2. Akaj says:

    People should read the case notes before commenting on this. They may then rethink their

  3. Mark says:

    This is a really well written article. I firmly believe in rehabilitation, and was in of the opinion that Evans served the punishment given to him by the courts. He should therefore be rehabilitated, as is the right of anybody else. If the punishment was insufficient, that is the fault of the legal system.

    However, your point about fans cheering his name, and particularly about their use of his crime as a taunt, left me cold. I generally believe the best of football fans. A lot of their chants are in the name of fun, although some cross into bad taste. A very small minority of fans are outright immoral. I’d like to believe that they could separate their appreciation of Evans’ skills from his actions, but you’re right in saying that this may be a big ask.

    In short, I’m now not entirely sure of my thoughts on the issue.

    • Ian Summers says:

      Perhaps you have not seen the news clip of Sheff. Utd. away fans yesterday chanting about Ched Evans as if he was some kind of returning prodigal son?

  4. Paul Brown says:

    I think the Jimmy Saville analogy is the most compelling argument in your article Liz. I believe Evans is entitled to some form of employment but certainly not in the entertainment world. I find it incredible that in 2014 women are still being mistreated as recent statistics indicate and the fact that women’s average wages are still well below men’s. Sheffield, of course, is just the other side of the M1 from Rotherham where furore about the systematic abuse of 1400 children by Asian gangs has focused almost totally on the failings of social services and police with little mention of the perpetrators and the culture and ideology that drives their vile behaviours.

  5. Bob says:

    As has been said, a very well written article and rather compelling piece, certainly focusssed my mind. It’s sometimes difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of the other gender so thank you for that Liz. She was certainly drunk but perhaps that was the intention of those that took advantage of her vulnerable state.

    • PF says:

      A compelling article .
      Sadly a sizeable minority of football fans are irredeemably misoginist.
      The football industry sadly reflects the worst elements of British society – Sports Direct, Wonga, Andy Grey, John Terry ….
      Name an ‘ism’ it’s present in football in spades.

      • Matt Flynn says:

        Altruism 😉

        It’s a fair point you make. Football reflects society, it doesn’t shape it. If there’s racism in the game it’s because there’s racism in our society. Ditto sexism, homophobia etc. It’s not football’s responsibility to be the nation’s moral compass. Nor is it football’s responsibility to make a moral stand on the issue at hand; football is very badly placed to say anything about morality full stop.

        We don’t have campaigns to kick racism out of banking, or to boot tax avoidance out of show biz. No, it’s just football that is singled out for this kind of stuff.why is that?

        This is a distasteful episode in an increasing repulsive industry, but it has nothing to do with football and everything to do with the vacuous state of society we now live in. If people want change they can use the ballot box, he lied

  6. Steven Carr says:

    Men must learn that if they have sex with a woman who is drunk, then they are rapists. It is that simple.

    • Peter Davis says:

      Wow. So a man and woman go out together, get drunk, and fall into bed. And that’s rape? Then there are millions of rapists out there!

  7. Jackson Yates says:

    It used to be called the game of the working class. Now it’s the game of capitalism and the low moral code. With a sanitised “family” veneer – a complete illusion. Whenever will we get our game back, I wonder?

  8. Pat Hughes says:

    It’s a brilliantly written article and says it all. The guy hasn’t shown any remorse or acceptance so presumably rehabilitation hasn’t been an option although he has apologised to his girlfriend for cheating. All is well for him then, he still has girlfriend and her rich dad is helping fund an appeal allegedly. So his trial was all wrong was it – everyone was wrong, the jury was wrong, the judge was wrong. It sickens me to think the victim may be dragged through hell again. I don’t understand our legal system at all. Football must have its own legal process as I’m sure we all remember footballers/managers escaping drinking, driving, drug related incidents and even rape allegations – it’s amazing what an expensive lawyer can achieve. As regards his job – of course he can’t expect to slot back into his little world again. Many footballers demand ‘celebrity’ status and bask in adoration / reflected glory. It’s about time their bubbles were popped and they returned to real life. Ched Evans ruined someone’s life – accept it, learn from it and stop hiding behind the weak football institutions. That is my personal view anyway.

  9. Kenthemag says:

    It’s worth remembering the victim is someone’s daughter, someone’s partner, someone’s friend. This will have affected them all badly. I hope she can find some peace when this is all over.

  10. Steven Carr says:

    Chet Evans found her by a McDonalds and took her to a hotel room, when she was incapable of giving consent. That is forced abduction, in anybody’s book.

    • Peter Davis says:

      Sorry, no. She went consensually to a hotel room with Evans’ mate, at Premier Inn. There’s CCTV footage of it online. They had a pizza and were going back for some ‘nooky’. Evans arrived later and wanted to join in. She didn’t try to stop him. Indeed if you read the transcript of the trial, she even invited him to do certain things with her. It honestly sounds like a drunken ‘3-in-a-bed’ that footballers have been involved in for a long time. The ‘rape’ aspect is that she was very drunk and ‘not capable of giving consent’. If this is the precedent, I worry for a lot of people that are going to get drunk and have sex, that they can’t remember and regret next day. Please check the facts on this case.

      • Steven Carr says:

        So you concede that she was drunk.

        Therefore, it was rape.

        That was the view of the judge and the jury.

        Evans is a convicted rapist. He has never denied that the girl was very drunk.

  11. Liz Luff says:

    Thank you to everyone who has been kind enough to read this article and post a comment.

    I originally wrote this to calm myself down and with no intention of sharing it. I was becoming increasingly troubled by what I was hearing and reading in the media and I wanted to rid myself of all the unpleasantness.

    I’m very glad I did share it via tf though. The response has been amazing.

    This is a contentious issue which has, in my view (and that of several rape charities), been fuelled by inappropriate media coverage, so I didn’t expect this article to meet with everyone’s approval.

    What I didn’t expect was the volume of positive comments I’ve received. Lots of men and women, in equal numbers, have been in touch expressing similar views and agreeing, largely, with what I’d written.

    It is heartening to know I’m not alone in feeling the way I do about what the victim of Ched Evans has been through, and is going through. And how this case, and how football chooses to respond to it, impacts on women and victims of rape more widely.

  12. Peter Davis says:

    A few points to keep in mind.
    1. What if he goes to appeal and is found innocent? There is a substantial body of evidence to suggest it – please see his supporters’ website. And if he’s found to be innocent, as many people maintain, aren’t we being a bit judgmental of an innocent man?
    2. Why wasn’t there such a furore over Joey Barton coming back to the Toon after doing time for a violent assault? Why is rape singled out above bashing someone’s face in? If we are all equal (which we are) then surely a violent crime to one is as bad as to another? I don’t get the double standard.
    3. If he comes back to Sheff Utd, you can bet that opposition fans will be absolutely brutal, merciless and tasteless in their abuse of him.That’s a price he’ll have to pay. Will you be joining in the verbals?
    I think in legal cases like this, we should not be knee-jerk. I believe if he’s served his punishment he can get back on with his life. He’ll never be allowed to live it down, whatever way. But isn’t justice about crime and punishment – and he’s been punished?

    • Rob says:

      Peter, if a big bloke offered you the option of a good kicking or him raping you would you shrug your shoulders and say I’m not bothered which one mate? I would imagine that if you are being honest you would take the kicking any day which says that some violent crimes are worse than others now doesn’t it.

      • Peter Davis says:

        Well not really since there was no violence used against the girl, she was just drunk and therefore technically not able to give informed consent. And hasn’t that sort of thing happened a million times over the years, young people going out and getting pissed, and having drunken sex that they regret? It was technically ‘rape’ – but I worry that if this definition is to be applied generally, a lot of weekend shenanigans will end up being called rape.

    • Liz Luff says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Peter.

      1. I’ve responded to this more fully already. He’s been found guilty, I’m not going to debate this – I’m not qualified to.
      2. There was “a furore” over Joey Barton at NUFC and there is no double standard here. I made the point in my piece that I was writing specifically about Ched Evans’ potential return to the game – not about the wider issues of criminals returning to football.
      3. No. Of course not. This is specifically what I hope we will avoid (for the sake of the victim of Ched Evans, other rape victims, women and society in general) if football chooses not to re-employ this man.

      • Peter Davis says:

        So Liz are we seeing rape as a specific crime, in a different category to other crimes of violence? The reason I’m asking is this. If we believe someone does a crime, gets punished, and gets another chance – that principle has to apply across the board. Barton used vicious, thuggish violence,and was rightly punished. Did his return to the game glorify men using thuggish violence? No. It’s about justice. You get punished and return to normal life. The same justice has to apply to Evans, whatever we think of him.

  13. Liz Luff says:

    Thanks for your comments but I’ll not be getting involved in a debate about Ched Evans’ conviction because I have no legal training and I’m not qualified to do so.

    I wrote this based on the fact he was found guilty by a jury presented with all the evidence available to them and convicted of rape under our law. He had (presumably) high end legal representation at the trial and during his prison term.

    Ched Evans is a convicted rapist.

    I am a woman, I am a football fan and I work in communications – I know how powerful messages are – so I’ve written only about something I am qualified to comment on.

    Ched Evans has a legal right to seek employment within football but I couldn’t return to my chosen career had I done something like this. I would have to find an alternative way to earn a living.

    Football has a choice. It can choose to employ this man or not. It is that choice which is debatable.

  14. Rob says:

    I would agree wholeheartedly with you Liz, as it stands Ched Evans is a convicted rapist, no ifs, no buts. He was found guilty by a jury who had all of the available evidence at hand and heard all arguments not just the selective information posted by his supporters on a website. The fact that his leave to appeal was refused by a panel of three judges suggests that they thought the conviction was a safe one. As you rightly point out there are many professions where this type of conviction would be the end of your career and there would be no debate about it. I do wonder how supportive the Sheffield United fans would be of him if his goal record was say 1 in every 5 games but perhaps I am being cynical.

    • Steve Byers says:

      I don’t like Ched. But remember he got sent down on the premise that even though she gave verbal consent, she was deemed too drunk to be able give consent. Which for me is worrying as in every other area of law, intoxication is not an excuse for your conduct – how many of us have entered into intercourse with a drunk girl that said yes while drunk ourselves after a night out? So Ched got convicted within a very grey area of the law to say the least.

      The reason why Liz does not want to discuss this point is not because she isn’t qualified – the legal precedent and judgement is quite simple and available online for non-legal people to read. She doesn’t bring it up because she doesn’t want to give a balanced account to her article, a very simple ploy from a communications expert.

      Also, you should view the following tweets made by the complainant, where she bragged about how much money she would win from the case, and how she would buy her friend a mini from the winnings. If somebody accused your brother, husband, or dad of rape and bragged about the winnings in the civil case’ wouldn’t you be vexed?

      Ultimately there is a very grey area about the conduct of Ched, and the complainant. To continue to persecute Ched beyond his custodial sentence, and to take away his livelihood is just too much, taking away somebody’s vocation is like taking somebodys right to life away, and should only be done in exceptional situations. As a result of this you should re-consider who the true victim is, and not jump on the easiest bandwagon. At least read the blooming case before expressing an opinion on it.

  15. Liz Luff says:

    Steve, I have said myself that I am not qualified to comment on this, or any, legal conviction.

    If you have the required legal training and access to all the evidence from this case I suggest you find someone else in the same position and discuss it with them.

    What is indisputable is that Ched Evans was found guilty by a jury and convicted of rape.

    And I’ve not suggested he cannot return to employment and that we take away his livelihood. I am hoping football chooses, on moral grounds and for all the reasons I’ve outlined above, not to employ Ched Evans as a footballer.

    He can earn a living some other way – the same way I would have to if I was convicted of a violent crime against a vulnerable person.

    I have no doubts whatever that clients would choose not to work with me on my return from prison and I’d have to reconsider my career options. That is the case for a great many people in all sorts of careers.

    • Steven Carr says:

      Why do you think he has been released from prison, when he is a convicted rapist?

      And he is a rapist, simply because the girl was drunk.

      He claimed she consented. But it is not her decision who she wanted to have sex with or not. That is for a middle-aged judge to decide, and he decided, when sentencing, that she did not want to have sex with Evans. She only thought she did, but she was drunk and so not capable of knowing who she wanted to consent to sex with.

      That is the law.

      It is to protect people.

      Just as a child cannot give consent, even if he or she actually is consenting, a drunken woman cannot give consent.

      Just as children are protected from paedophiles, drunken women are protected from rapists.

    • Steven Carr says:

      Here is what the judge said :-

      ‘So you will need to consider the evidence of the
      complainant’s state and decide these two questions: was she in a
      condition in which she was capable of making any choice one
      way or another? If you are sure that she was not, then she did not
      consent. ‘

      It is not up to a 19 year old girl to decide if she is capable of consenting to sex or not.

      It is up to middle aged judges to decide.

  16. Steve Byers says:

    So is True Faith going to ignore this story and its progression now that its presumptions look misguided? True Faith is very eager to jump on a main stream bandwagon so long as the antagonist fits in with a stereotypical left wing leaning dialogue. True Faith needs to apply the same critical thinking to the left as it does to the right or it will be nothing more than a footballing version of the white working class male hating Guardian

  17. Steve Byers says:

    Re-reading this article and comments in the context of Evans’s acquittal only emphasises the hypocrisy of the author and the general readership.

    A readership happy to sneer at those with differing views especially when those being sneered at regurgitate red top hysterical clap trap. But as soon as the subject turns to a white working class footballer all critical analysis is abandoned. The author refused to even read the case summary before comparing Ched to Jimmy Saville. Is there anything more dishonest and unworthy of journalism than to write like a writer from News Corp? With an opinion pre-formed, and unable to question your own prejudices? It’s easier to jump on a bandwagon and hop into bed with the hang em and flog em’ brigade that the readers of this fanzine apparently despise.

    It the subject was not a male or an ethnic minority, and had clearly being convicted on the basis of being presumed guilty without sufficient evidence to prove otherwise then these same people would be screaming like hysterical lunatics just like they did when the innocent victim in this matter tried to re start his vocation in football.

    TF, the hysterical part of the left, the author and the readership have disgusted me in their absolute arrogance, sanctimony and hypocrisy with regard to this episode in history.