Ched Evans: PFA 'understand and respect' Sheffield United's decision to retract training offer but hope convicted rapist will find new club

Evans was offered the chance to train with his former club after his release from prison but Sheffield United changed their mind after heavy criticism

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The Professional Footballers' Association is still hopeful that convicted rapist Ched Evans will be given an opportunity to return to the game after Sheffield United withdrew their offer to let him use their training facilities.

The League One club announced on Thursday night that they had severed their ties with Evans after the decision to allow him to train with the club was met with widespread opposition and led to the resignation of four club patrons.

Olympic heptathlon gold medal winner Jessica Ennis-Hill also asked that the club remove her name from one of the stands at Bramall Lane if the club opted to re-sign Evans.

The PFA had initially asked the Blades to allow Evans to train with them, and said in a statement on Friday: "We note Sheffield United's decision to retract the offer they made to Ched Evans for him to return to training with the club.

"It is not surprising given the subsequent delay in his return as the matter was debated and understandably strong opinions were aired.

"We fully understand and respect the opposing views to Ched's return to Sheffield United and clearly part of the issue related to him returning to the club he was previously with at the time of his imprisonment.

"With that in mind, it may ultimately be of benefit to both parties to move on and for Ched to look for a fresh start at a different club.

"We maintain our general position that the courts determine punishments and a return to society and a contribution to the community through employment is a key element of rehabilitation.

"We do not agree that society should impose different rules for footballers which go beyond the position of the law. In that regard, it is hoped that Ched will be given an opportunity at another club to return to the job he is trained to do."

Charlie Webster believes Sheffield United have done the right thing

Sheffield United admitted they had underestimated the criticism they would receive for letting Evans train with the club.

The decision provoked considerable public outcry, with television presenter Charlie Webster, sixties pop star Dave Berry, musician Paul Heaton and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham all quitting their roles as club patrons. A petition against Evans rejoining attracted over 165,000 signatures.

The Blades statement issued on Thursday read: "The club initially accepted a request from the PFA for Ched Evans to be able to train. The reaction to this has been at an intensity that could not have been anticipated when first announced.

"Members of the board have consulted dispassionately with the club's supporters, vice presidents, community foundation members, executives, staff, sponsors and other relevant stakeholders in order to help it reach this decision."

Evans said he is going to fight to clear his name, in a YouTube video appeal

Webster welcomed the decision, writing on Twitter: "Sheffield United have done the right thing by not letting Ched Evans train with them. It's the right thing for the club, its fans, its community and the victim. SUFC-tweets is a great club with a fantastic history and now its future can be fantastic too."

Evans served half of a five-year prison sentence having been found guilty of rape in April 2012.

Evans has always denied raping the woman, saying the sex was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.

An appeal against his conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012, while following his release from prison, he uploaded a video on his website protesting his innocence and vowed to clear his name.