Gordon Taylor issues fresh apology after appearing to compare Ched Evans to Hillsborough disaster

PFA chief says he "unreservedly apologises" for "crass and insensitive" comments

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The Independent Online

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor has issued a fresh apology for appearing to compare Ched Evans' attempt to clear his name with the campaign for justice over the Hillsborough disaster.

Taylor made the comments in a radio interview after it emerged that Evans' proposed move to Oldham had collapsed amid threats to club staff and their families. His remarks provoked outrage among a number of Hillsborough families and their supporters.

An initial apology on Radio Merseyside earlier on Friday prompted Dr Phil Scraton, the academic who was the primary author of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, to claim Taylor had compounded his "crass and insensitive" comments.

Taylor has now issued another apology accepting it had been a mistake to link the two issues and issued a statement on the PFA's website.

He said: "I would like to apologise unreservedly for linking the Hillsborough case with the situation involving Ched Evans. The last thing I intended to do was to upset anybody connected to the Hillsborough tragedy, I can only apologise."

Taylor said he had "long been a supporter" of the Hillsborough families, adding: "I know the people involved and I will be very happy to ring them and let them know that.

"The point I was making was not to embarrass or upset anybody at all among the Liverpool supporters. I'm very much an admirer of them and they know that."

Scraton had reacted to Taylor's initial apology by telling The Guardian: "In his telephone interview this morning on Radio Merseyside, Gordon Taylor apologised for any offence he may have caused to the Hillsborough families.

"He then proceeded to compound yesterday's crass, insensitive and wholly inappropriate comments by stating that, 'Ched Evans is a totally different case but he has the same belief of his innocence."'

Evans, now 26, was jailed in April 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman. He maintains the sex in a Rhyl hotel was consensual and protests his innocence. He was released from prison in October, after serving half of a five-year sentence.

Taylor mentioned Evans' situation alongside events that followed the Hillsborough tragedy, which resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest in Sheffield.

After years of fighting by the families of those who died, new inquests into the deaths began last year and are continuing in Warrington. Speaking about Evans' case on Thursday, Taylor had told BBC Radio 5 Live: "He would not be the first person or persons to have been found guilty and maintained their innocence and then been proved right.

"If we are talking about things in football, we know what happened, what was alleged to have happened at Hillsborough. And it's now unravelling and we are finding it was very different to how it was portrayed at the time - indeed by the police at the time."

Margaret Aspinall, chairman of Hillsborough Family Support Group, said Taylor's comments were offensive but he shouldn't resign.

She said: "I accept his apology and I think it's ridiculous for everybody to ask for his resignation. He phrased his wording wrong. "There is no comparison and I did find it offensive because you cannot compare what we went through with Ched Evans.

"I don't think he meant it, I think he didn't put his brain into gear.

"He's apologised now and I think we should leave it at that."

Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son Christopher died at Hillsborough, told the Liverpool Echo: "My feeling is that it was a gaffe on Gordon Taylor's part and it's not the first time Taylor, in his position at the PFA, has made a gaffe.

"He is a man who, in my opinion, seriously needs to think before he opens his mouth.

"It's an absolute disgrace that he should compare Hillsborough to Ched Evans."

PA

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