Footballer convicted of rape: ‘Mob rule’ stopped Oldham deal

LONDON (AP) — Ched Evans, the soccer player trying to revive his career after a rape conviction, blamed “mob rule tactics” for forcing English club Oldham to abandon plans to sign him on Thursday.

Oldham said death threats received by staff, sponsors, and fans during a week of intense scrutiny on the third-division club made it impossible to sign Evans.

Evans criticized those who stopped his “lawful quest” to return to professional soccer.

“Sadly the ‘mob rule’ tactics employed by the more radical elements of our society and the constant media reporting has had the desired influence on some sponsors and the club would face significant financial pressure if I joined them,” Evans said on his personal website.

Evans said funding for a new stand at Oldham’s stadium would have been jeopardized if he played for the team.

“It would mean that workers would lose their jobs and others would be put at risk,” he said. “That would simply not be fair.”

The former Manchester City and Sheffield United striker maintains he was wrongly convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Wales in 2011. He was released from jail about three months ago and has since been trying to sign with a professional soccer team, while seeking to get his conviction overturned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

“Whilst I continue to maintain my innocence, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologize for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned,” Evans said.

Several people have been fined for revealing the victim’s identity online, and she has reportedly had to change her name several times and move.

“It has been claimed that those using social media in an abusive and vindictive way towards this woman are supporters of mine,” Evans said. “I wish to make it clear that these people are not my supporters, and I condemn their actions entirely and will continue to do so.”

Oldham has lost sponsorship deals this week over its pursuit of Evans, and also said it received a “barrage of abuse.”

“Proceeding could have placed significant financial pressure on the club and continued to be a divisive influence — as a consequence the deal could not go ahead,” Oldham chief executive Neil Joy said.

“We deplore and condemn the vile and abusive threats, some including death threats, which have been made to our fans, sponsors and staff whilst this process has been in the public domain,” Joy added outside the club’s stadium.

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Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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