Charlie Webster resigns as patron of Sheffield United after club allowed convicted rapist Ched Evans to return to training

TV presenter quit during an interview with BBC Newsnight

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The Independent Online

TV presenter Charlie Webster has resigned as a patron of Sheffield United after the club allowed former player and convicted rapist Ched Evans to return for training on Tuesday.

Campaigners against sexual violence have criticised the League One club for allowing the Evans to return to the club to regain his fitness.

The 25-year-old striker has not signed a contract with the club after his release from prison, where he served half of a five-year term. The former Wales international played for United between 2009 and 2012, scoring 48 goals in 113 matches for the club.

Webster, a former Sky Sports News presenter who revealed in an interview earlier this year that she was sexually assaulted as a teenager, had vowed to quit her role if the club re-signed Evans.

In an interview on BBC Newsnight, Webster said she had had a conversation with the chairman of the club, Kevin McCabe, which she described as "positive" but added that she felt she had to make a decision after Evans returned to training.

Webster  Tweeted on Wednesday morning that she was "overwhelmed" by the support she had received after quitting her role.

On Tuesday, the Blades released a lengthy statement explaining they had not yet decided whether to re-sign Evans, but said they agreed with a request from the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) to let him train.

 

Speaking on Newsnight, Webster said: "At no point have Sheffield United acknowledged the extremity of his crime. I think it's over 155,000 people now that have signed a petition against Ched Evans going back to the club. Nobody's making a decision and I suppose I feel I need to make a decision as patron of Sheffield United.

"My decision, which I've informed the club about a little bit earlier on, is that I resign as patron of Sheffield United, Sheffield United Community Foundation, which is all about inspiring the next generation through sport.

"My decision is made on the fact that I don't believe a convicted rapist, as in Ched Evans, should go back to a club that I am patron of and should go back into the community to represent the community.

"He's not just going into a job, he's bandied as a role model, we cheer him on as a role model and he's influencing the next generation of young men who are currently still making their decisions on how to treat women and what sexual mutual consent is."

Sheffield United said they had considered the views of staff, the Football League and the PFA, as well as United supporters and the general public, as expressed in "emails, social media comments, editorials, supporter websites, public petitions and media coverage".

They also considered the PFA view that footballers should be treated equally before the law, in terms of being allowed to be rehabilitated.

The club also said Evans - who protests his innocence - acknowledged "the destructive nature of the acts which led to his conviction".

Sheffield United said they condemned rape and violence against women in the "strongest possible terms".

Evans was jailed in April 2012 for raping a woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, North Wales.

The Welsh striker denied rape, saying the sex was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.

Additional reporting by PA