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Oldham to hold further talks with convicted rapist Ched Evans

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Ched Evans hopes to join club. Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Ched Evans hopes to join club. Martin Rickett/PA Wire

PA

Ched Evans hopes to join club. Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Oldham plan to hold more talks regarding the potential signing of convicted rapist Ched Evans even though more than 30,000 people have signed a petition urging them not to do so.

After much speculation, Oldham confirmed on Monday that they are considering taking the highly controversial step of offering Evans a route back into professional football.

After a conference call between board members, chief executive Neil Joy issued a statement under the heading 'Ched Evans' which said the club would ''continue to have conversations with representative bodies such as the PFA (Professional Footballers' Association) and will conduct due diligence with regard to any decision we make on this matter.''

After reading out the statement outside Boundary Park, Joy refused to answer the questions of the 40-plus media who had gathered to hear the club's stance on the matter.

Evans may have a proven record in League One - in his final season at Sheffield United he scored 35 goals in 42 appearances - but signing the player would prove to be a hugely contentious move for the Latics, who are 14th in the table.

Evans was released from prison last October half way through a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman.

Since then, he has been rejected by Hartlepool and Tranmere.

Former club Sheffield United offered the striker a chance to train with them last November but they retracted the invitation after it caused uproar.

Oldham, however, chose to begin a second round of negotiations with the Welshman despite insisting last month that they would not sign Evans.

It did not take long for dissenting voices to start airing their objections once it emerged Oldham were considering signing Evans.

By Monday night a petition calling on the club to not sign the forward was nearing 35,000 signatures.

And leading politicians had their say on the matter too.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said he would not employ the Wales international, who has asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission to examine his case in the hope that it could lead to an appeal.

''He hasn't shown remorse and I wouldn't take him on,'' Miliband told BBC Radio Manchester.

Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, said it would be ''wrong'' for Evans to start playing again.

''As he is claiming his innocence and in the process of appealing against his conviction, both he and football clubs should wait for the outcome of this process before even considering a return to the sport,'' she said.

Labour's Shadow Minister for Sport, Clive Efford, called for the Football Association to intervene and not accept Evans's registration as a player.

''There are many professions that people cannot return to after committing this sort of crime and football must be one of them,'' Efford added.

Greater Manchester's Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd implored Oldham to stay away from Evans.

''Ched Evans is a convicted rapist and, whilst I strongly believe in the principle of rehabilitation, it will send out entirely the wrong message if they offer him a contract,'' he said.

Oldham stand to lose sponsorship revenue if they sign Evans.

Verlin Rainwater Solutions, which sponsors a stand at Boundary Park, says it would "be out of the door" if Oldham went ahead with the signing.

Another sponsor, Mecca Bingo, tweeted: "We can confirm will be ending our association with @OfficialOAFC if they sign Ched Evans."

But Web Applications UK, said it would continue to support the club irrespective of its decision.

The Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) said fans were split over the issue of whether Evans should be given the chance to play professional football again.

An FSF spokesman said: "There is no clear consensus from fans one way or the other - this is clearly a very divisive issue in society, not just among supporters.

"Some fans argue that footballers convicted of offences such as rape should never be allowed to play professionally again as it is such a serious crime.

"Other supporters say that once an individual is released from prison, they should be allowed to pursue their previous career so long as the law of the land allows it.

"Even if Evans has the right to play, some fans say they would still feel uncomfortable at the implications of a convicted rapist representing their club."

PA Media