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'We'll be out the door if club sign Ched Evans' - say Oldham's main sponsors

One of Oldham's main sponsors has said it will be "out of the door" if the club sign convicted rapist Ched Evans.

Craig Verling, a director of Verlin Rainwater Solutions which sponsors a stand at Boundary Park, said the company would terminate its involvement with the Latics if Evans joins up with the League One outfit.

Oldham are reported to be holding a board meeting to decide whether to pursue their interest in Evans, although no confirmation was immediately available from the club on Monday morning. Evans was not part of the group which arrived at Boundary Park on Monday morning to make its way down to the club's training ground.

Verling told Press Association Sport: "The club know our stance and that is if they sign or allow Ched Evans to train we will be out of the door.

"We had a conversation with the club when they considered allowing Ched Evans to train with them six to eight weeks ago, and we were led to believe they had listened to the general input.

"But our sources have made it clear he will be training or signing for the club this week and it is not something we wish to be associated with."

News of Evans' potential signing attracted a major media presence to Boundary Park on Monday morning.

Verlin signed a deal to sponsor one of the Boundary Park stands in 2013 with the club's marketing executive David Broadbent then describing it as "fantastic for all parties".

But Verling said his company would have no hesitation in ending its support should the club reverse its original announcement that it would not pursue an interest in Evans.

Verling added: "Ched Evans is a convicted rapist and while my personal view is that people should be given a second chance in life it is just not something with which we wish to be associated.

"It is not a business decision, it is a personal one, and the fact is it just does not sit right with me."

Reports on Monday suggested Oldham had been taken aback by their renewed interest in Evans, and were due to hold a conference call between directors to discuss their options.

The backlash includes an online petition which has already attracted over 20,000 signatures.

Evans served two and a half years of a five-year sentence after being found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2011 but has protested his innocence since being released in October.

Former Oldham star Rick Holden has also expressed his discomfort at the club's link with Evans.

Holden, who was part of the side that reached the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and League Cup, called the situation "untenable".

Holden told BBC Radio Five Live: "I'm not comfortable with it at all, it's one of those crimes that will never go away in my opinion.

"I don't see how the chap can survive actually, given the ferocity of football up and down the land, even if he did sign. I think it's untenable."

Evans had an offer to train with former club Sheffield United retracted in November following strong local opposition, while Tranmere and Hartlepool also rejected the opportunity to sign the 26-year-old striker.

He was initially given permission by the Blades to return to train with the club at the request of the PFA. But following a backlash from Blades supporters, sponsors and patrons opposed to Evans' return - 160,000 people signed a petition against it - the club retracted the offer.

Broadcaster Charlie Webster stood down from her role as a club patron of Sheffield United in the wake of their links to Evans.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain on Monday, she said of Oldham owner Simon Corney: "Isn't the brand of his football club important? Isn't the community of his football club important? When Sheffield United had the petition, I think it was a ridiculous amount, 160,000 people that stood up.

"(I) stood up, Jessica Ennis stood up, very many patrons stood up, society stood up and said 'no' and they listened and he didn't get re-signed for Sheffield United. I'm hoping that Oldham will listen as well and Oldham will understand that this is a greater issue than just Ched Evans, it's about sexual abuse."

PFA chief Taylor said the players' union had not asked any club to sign Evans but would support them doing so.

Any move to sign Evans is likely to lead to public outcry, but Taylor is keen to avoid a similar situation to the one that engulfed Sheffield United after they made their offer to the player.

''I don't want to create a replica-type situation that we had at Sheffield (United) because I'm a little bit concerned that we need a press conference and that will invite, of course, many antagonists,'' he said.

Taylor said the PFA appreciated the situation was ''very sensitive'', but reiterated its stance that Evans deserved the chance to resume his career following his release from prison.

''We've made it clear in our statements that we feel he's been unable to say much because of the appeals process, but he has served his time and the job of society is to look to rehabilitate,'' Taylor said.

On Friday Maltese side Hibernians revealed that they had made a contract offer to Evans for the remainder of the season, although the BBC quoted a spokesman for Evans denying the player received such an offer.

However, any move abroad is unlikely to materialise given the UK's tough regime in managing sex offenders.

PA Media