The chief executive of a prominent children's charity has called on Hearts to sack Craig Thomson after the defender pleaded guilty to lewd, libidinous and indecent behaviour towards two under-age girls.
The 20-year-old was fined £4,000 and placed on the sex offenders register for five years but Hearts confirmed on Friday that they would allow Thomson to resume his career at Tynecastle following their own investigation into the matter.
Thomson issued an apology of his own via the club's website and thanked the club for their "understanding" of his situation.
But Anne Houston of Children 1st said that the club's decision not to take action against the Scotland Under-21 cap was "unacceptable".
She told the Scotsman: "We must use this particular instance to send a clear message that children have the right to be happy and healthy, safe and secure in everything that they do. We all have a responsibility to make that happen.
"Not taking action to protect children from the risk of sexual harm is unacceptable. Allowing convicted sex offenders to continue working where they will have direct and indirect contact with children is wrong.
"There is no place in our society for role models who have been convicted of sexual offences, no matter what talents they might have.
"We would hope that everyone in football, and particularly the Scottish Football Association, who are the primary governing body in Scottish football, would agree."
David McLetchie, a Conservative MSP and Hearts fan, was also unhappy at the news Hearts were standing by Thomson.
"I am surprised that Hearts are retaining the services of Craig Thomson, given the seedy and unsavoury nature of his offences," he said.
"The fact that the club places a high value on the work that it does with the community and the fact that footballers are supposed to aspire to be role models for young people - I do find it surprising."
Hearts released a statement regarding Thomson on Friday which read: "The club believes that there is no reason for Craig Thomson not to continue his career as a professional footballer and he will resume training with immediate effect.
"In reaching this decision, the club accepted that there are sufficient mitigating circumstances that provide significant assurance that the player's conduct, no matter how distasteful, was the result of a grave error of judgement due to naivety and possible wrong outside influence rather than anything more sinister and it will not be repeated.
"The club views this matter very seriously and does not condone the behaviour of the player.
"Appropriate action to prevent any further development of unlawful activities has been taken."
Hearts Supporters' Trust chairman Derek Watson told the Press Association: "The majority (of fans) are very much against keeping Craig Thomson on."
Watson added: "I think there's more to the situation than meets the eye. I think the guy should get another chance.
"I've spoken to his lawyer at some length, I've also spoken to Hearts on the situation and I think it's a bit of a witch hunt."Reuse content