'We're 80pc likely to sign Ched Evans because he's served his time' - says Oldham owner
Oldham owner Simon Corney has confirmed there is an "80 per cent" chance of the club signing convicted rapist Ched Evans, who he believes "has served his time".
Corney said the decision to give Evans, 26, a route back into football had been agreed unanimously by all six members of the Oldham board, despite vociferous opposition and sponsors severing ties with the League One club.
The Oldham chairman told the Jewish Chronicle: "We believe he has served his time. There is an 80 per cent chance of us signing him. It won't be done today (Wednesday). It's not straightforward and there are some legal issues.
"There might be a cost implication, but you have to stick to your principles. We weren't surprised by the backlash."
Corney said three unnamed Premier League club managers had contacted him to offer their support, and that he respects the views of those who thought Evans should not be allowed back into professional football.
He added: "I completely understand people's views and I respect them. I would never tell people they are wrong to have their own views. But we want people to keep them in check.
"I hope people don't get too carried way and it doesn't get too hot."
Evans was released from prison last October, halfway through a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman.
Discussions between Oldham and the Professional Footballers' Association have continued over Evans' signing, and there have been reports that he and the club have agreed personal terms ahead of an announcement on Thursday, with a two-and-a-half-year deal being suggested for the Wales international striker.
A club spokesman confirmed they hoped to make a statement on Thursday, prompting a negative response from sponsors.
One, Verlin Rainwater Solutions, announced it was cutting ties with the club immediately.
Craig Verling, a director of Verlin Rainwater Solutions - which sponsors a stand at Boundary Park - said in a statement: "After receiving the news regarding the imminent signing of Ched Evans, it is with great regret that Verlin Rainwater Solutions will no longer be associated with Oldham Athletic.
"We would like to take this opportunity to make clear that we feel that Mr Evans should be able to lead a life without further punishment after serving his sentence, although our feelings remain the same that this should not be within the public domain where his previous behaviour may influence the next generation."
Another Oldham sponsor, ZenOffice, warned it would sever its five-year relationship with the club if the Evans signing went ahead.
A statement from the company said: "This partnership has been based on mutual respect as OAFC did share the same values as ZenOffice, based on family and community.
"ZenOffice do not agree that the current path OAFC are embarking on espouses these values. Therefore it is with much regret that ZenOffice would like to confirm that we will end our association with Oldham Athletic Football Club if the move goes ahead to sign Ched Evans."
The club have been aware that some sponsors and the local council are unhappy at the prospect, but look determined to push ahead with the signing, while major sponsor Sports Direct - owned by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley - has remained silent on the issue.
More than 65,000 people have signed an online petition urging Oldham not to sign him, while even Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman has said that, as footballers are role models, clubs should "weigh their decisions very carefully".
Oldham have previously given a second chance to footballers convicted of criminal offences. In 2007, they signed Lee Hughes after his release following a jail term for causing death by dangerous driving.
A number of media organisations have maintained a presence outside Boundary Park this week, awaiting a possible announcement.
On Wednesday evening, club director Barry Owen invited reporters inside to update on the situation.
Speaking on behalf of the chairman and board of directors, Owen said: "There are ongoing negotiations with regard to signing Ched Evans. Unfortunately, quite a lot of due diligence still needs to be completed. We are still in talks with the PFA and other agencies.
"At the moment I would just ask you to bear with us. There are things to be done, genuinely, and I don't anticipate that it is going to be done over the next few days. If it is and it is possible to do anything for you, we will make contact with you and tell you what the circumstances are. We are a professional club and we do things in the right way with regard to the media."