HARTLEPOOL United say they will no longer welcome the possibility of signing convicted rapist Ched Evans.
Pools manager Ronnie Evans confirmed the club could “possibly” sign Evans, who was convicted of rape in 2011 and jailed for five years, after the club’s 1-1 draw with Oxford United on Saturday.
The story broke the Mail’s website and saw a massive public reaction, with hundreds of people commenting online and on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Evans was released in October after serving half his sentence and was subject to controversy when his former club Sheffield United considered bringing him back into the side.
The plan caused uproar and more than 165,000 people signed a petition against the move, while several high profile backers showed their disgust, including Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill and singer/song writer Paul Heaton.
But Hartlepool United new chairman Peter Harris issued a statement to say Pools is not planning to sign Evans and the club regrets any upset that may have been caused.
He said: “We are upset at the manner in which this story has escalated and wish to make it clear that the player will not be joining the club.
“All we are concentrating on is league survival and do not want anything to upset that goal.
“The club regrets any upset that may have been caused but we feel we must deal with this matter quickly and put the story to bed once and for all.”
Town MP Iain Wright, who regularly attends Pools matches, says he’s pleased that Evans won’t be wearing a Pools strip.
He said: “I’m really pleased and I’m relieved. The new statement from the club makes it very definitive where they stand.
“It’s drawn a line under it and I’m pleased that now the club can concentrate on sustaining football league status in the next season.
“I think it would have been a terrible move for the club and I think it would have split the fans.
“There would have been people who stayed away from the club and the sponsors wouldn’t have wanted to be associated with a convicted rapist and would have pulled out, and that could have compromised the survival of the club.”
He added: “I’m very proud of the team’s values. It’s a family club and the message that signing this player would have sent to the young fans in terms of rape and attitudes to women wouldn’t have been in-keeping with the values of Hartlepool United.
“I’m very pleased that the club has made that incredibly clear.”
Pauline McSweenie, secretary of the supporters’ association, was also pleased with the decision.
She said: “I think they’ve made the right decision.
“It’s been a good week for the club and I think this signing would have divided the fans and could have split players in the locker room.
“Now we can just get on with the football. Signing Evans wouldn’t have sent the right message and they’ve definitely made the right decision.”