JESSICA ENNIS-HILL, the Olympic heptathlon champion, will ask League One side Sheffield United to remove her name from one of the stands in their stadium, if convicted rapist Ched Evans is issued with a contract with the club.
In 2012, the Bramall Lane stand was renamed after Ennis-Hill, who is a supporter of the club, due to her success in the 2012 Olympics.
He is set to train with United – whom he was playing for when he was convicted of rape – following a request put forward by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). Although it is not definite whether he will be given a new contract, it is apparent that a lot of the public, and other well-respected people in the media, do not favour his comeback.
Ennis-Hill said: “I believe being a role model to young people is a huge honour and those in positions of influence in communities should respect the role they play in young people’s lives and set a good example.
“If Evans was to be re-signed by the club it would completely contradict these beliefs.”
Reporter Charlie Webster, a former patron of Sheffield United, resigned live-on-air recently following Evans’ return to the training ground, saying, “[I don’t] believe a convicted rapist as in Ched Evans should go back to a club I am a patron of.”
Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper MP, has also issued a statement, saying:
“Professional football is not a normal job. Players earn huge amounts and are role models to the local community. That means players also have a responsibility to the local community – and so does the club.
“Sheffield United are in danger of sending the wrong signal to the local community about the kinds of role models they support.”
In the past Evans was a consistent goal scorer for the club, but if he were to sign a new contract there would be many restrictions on what he could do off the pitch.
Due to the footballer’s rape conviction, he is unable to work with young or vulnerable people, for example coaching and training youth teams, or charity work in local schools and hospitals. He could even be banned from one of Sheffield United’s own training grounds, The Redtooth Academy, home to their community foundation, which is frequently involved in activities for children and disabled young people and adults.