Oldham Athletic expect to sign Ched Evans this week

Club remain intent on signing striker despite petition against reaching 65,000 signatures

Oldham Athletic are set to make an announcement on Ched Evans with the player’s camp increasingly confident the convicted rapist will be offered a contract. (Jon Buckle/PA Wire)

Oldham Athletic are set to make an announcement on Ched Evans with the player’s camp increasingly confident the convicted rapist will be offered a contract. (Jon Buckle/PA Wire)

 

Oldham Athletic owner and chairman Simon Corney has said that the club expects to sign the convicted rapist Ched Evans before the end of the week.

“We believe he has served his time,” Corney told the Jewish Chronicle. “There is an 80 per cent chance of us signing him. It won’t be done today. It’s not straightforward and there are some legal issues.”

The move to take on Evans has provoked a backlash among the public with 65,000 people signing a petition protesting against the signing and the Labour leader Ed Milliband saying: “He hasn’t shown remorse and I wouldn’t take him on.”

Corney said he understood the widespread concerns but added: “I hope people don’t get too carried way and it doesn’t get too hot.”

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.”

The deal could happen “at any time”, but was likely to be confirmed before the weekend, he said.

Sponsor pulls out

One of the League One side’s sponsors has already severed ties with the club over the potential signing.

Verlin Rainwater Solutions said: “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.

“We sincerely wish the club a very successful future and have no regrets about being associated with Oldham Athletic over the past few seasons, but feel our continued support would be sending out the wrong message.”

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.”

Oldham’s main sponsor is Sports Direct, whose chairman is the Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, though the company has yet to comment on the issue.

Mecca Bingo, another Oldham sponsor, threatened earlier in the week to withdraw its support. In a tweet Mecca Bingo said: “We can confirm [WE]will be ending our association with @OfficialOAFC if they sign Ched Evans.”

Corney, with his fellow businessmen Simon Blitz and Danny Gazal, purchased the Lancashire club during the 2003-04 season. The consortium was credited with stabilising Oldham, which had been in a perilous financial position and close to liquidation.

‘Wrong message’

Evans, who was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2012, has previously been linked with Sheffield United, Hartlepool United, Tranmere Rovers and Malta’s Hibernians before either being turned down or, in the case of Hibernians, prevented from joining by the Ministry of Justice.

Northumbria’s police commissioner, Vera Baird, who is from Oldham, called on Ashley to withdraw Sports Direct’s sponsorship from the club if Evans was signed. The Greater Manchester police commissioner, Tony Lloyd, also joined the criticism, saying: “It will send out entirely the wrong message if they offer him a contract”.

Oldham are no strangers to recruiting controversial strikers, having signed Lee Hughes in 2007 after he had been released from prison after causing death by dangerous driving.

Evans has consistently maintained his innocence. An investigation into his conviction by the Criminal Cases Review Commission is continuing.

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