Ched Evans a player ‘in other circumstances we wouldn’t be able to afford’

Oldham pulled out of deal on Thursday but director Barry Owen has no regrets over bid

Oldham director Barry Owen has insisted he has no regrets over the club's aborted attempt to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans.

Evans, who was released from prison in October halfway through a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman in 2011, looked poised to join the Latics on Thursday but the club pulled the plug on the deal after a storm of opposition.

Chief executive Neil Joy said the move collapsed following "vile and abusive threats, including death threats" to fans, sponsors and staff while also claiming "proceeding could have placed significant financial pressure on the club and continued to be a divisive influence".

Evans' former employers Sheffield United had also come in for heavy criticism when they offered the striker a chance to train to with them — an offer which was later withdrawn — but Owen was adamant he did not regret the Latics' bid.


“I will never regret it,” he told the BBC’s Football League Show.

“I am hugely disappointed for many reasons that I can’t discuss.

“Oldham were going to get a footballer that in other circumstances they wouldn’t have been able to afford. This was driven by football reasons.”

Owen, who resigned as chairman of the club’s supporters’ trust last week but insisted that decision had nothing to do with the affair, admitted that, in the end, money was a big factor in cancelling the deal.

“We knew there would be a storm to bear and were prepared to accept a lot of that and take it on the chin because we believed strongly in the right to employ this man,” he said.

“We did not anticipate the amount of sponsorship pressure, which was understandable because they were under extreme pressure.

“In the end it came down purely to the finances.

“We would have been in extreme financial difficulty with the withdrawal of sponsorships we would have had to withstand and it would have put the club into serious jeopardy.”

Over 70,000 people signed a petition against the signing of Evans and, while Owen said he could understand their objections, he maintained the club were perfectly within their rights to pursue a deal.

“There is a fundamental right that the boy can work and I fully understand the opposition to it,” he said.

“I have seen the effects of rape on people, which is frightening.

"All those points came into the due diligence which we carried out. We looked and balanced everything against them but at end of the day there are no Football Association rules against the signing, no laws in the land.

“There is nothing in there to say how we should go along the rehabilitation process or anything stopping us from proceeding.

“We (the board) are all family men, we are a small club and do not have millions of pounds to withstand the pressure put on us. Every one of the directors have daughters, the chief executive has family, many members of staff have families and they were supporting this lawful act we were carrying out.”

Evans maintains his innocence over the rape conviction and his case will be examined by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) which will advise on whether it sees grounds to launch a fresh appeal. He was refused leave to appeal by the Court of Appeal in November 2012.

Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parish, one of the guests on BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme, felt Evans had been badly advised to expect that he would be able to resume his playing career while his case remains ongoing.

He told the programme: “Ched has made it very difficult for people. If you’re convicted of a crime, and you’re on licence for that crime, he is effectively on probation. To have no remorse, to say ‘I just didn’t do it’, and expect everybody to employ you in the public domain in a very public sport, I think he has been badly advised.

“He really needs to go away, get his appeal done, and then come back into football and show the experience has changed him somehow.”