3 months ago when it looked like Ched Evans would be returning to football, I wrote that football had no morals and he’d be back playing football in no time. Since then, several teams have looked to sign the convicted rapist, including Sheffield United, Hartlepool United and most recently Oldham Athletic.
The circus surrounding the Oldham Athletic situation was particularly toxic, and the lack of direction from the FA and the Football League is quite telling – without specific guidelines or rules on what to do with convicted sex offenders, the whole Ched Evans saga has descended into chaos and we find ourselves where we are now.
Oldham Athletic were naive at best as they publicly came out and said a deal to sign Ched Evans was 80% complete. What followed was a vicious backlash as the public clearly did not want him to be playing football again. Sponsors for Oldham threatened to pull out, and the final straw was when the club directors daughter was directly threatened with rape if Ched Evans signed for them.
Their statement afterwards was also extremely naive, as they stated that they didn’t anticipate the reaction to their decision could not have been anticipated. Are Oldham Athletic living in a deep hole 500 meters in the ground? Every man and their dog could see that attempting to sign Ched Evans would be met with an unsavoury reception.
The bottom line in all this is the men who are supposed to be governing football have no idea what they are doing. The FA have been deafly silent, the PFA have been misguided in their support and the Football League have essentially said it’s up to the football clubs to decide. And when you consider how mental some of the owners of football teams are, then it’s no surprise several teams are trying to sign Ched Evans.
But in this circus, the fact is Ched Evans almost signed for a professional football club. And what stopped it? Was it the police? No. Was it the FA? No. Was it the Football League? No. Was it a petition or supporters group? No.
What stopped the move was a direct threat made to the directors daughter, and the so called “trial by social media”.
If this was 20 years ago, Ched Evans would already be playing football again. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but it’s a fact. These days, whenever big happens it’s reported on social media instantaneously, specifically on Twitter. Social media is a gift and a curse, and in a way it’s a liberating way to freely express your opinions and share information. The law in this country struggles to police social media, and if you want to know some information on a public case which the mainstream media cannot report, you simply go to Twitter. The police have clamped down on those who reveal this type of confidential data (such as the teenager who killed the teacher in Leeds, or the victim of the Ched Evans rape) but people still use it to spread information.
Social media is a way of gauging the publics opinion but it also allows those win an extreme opinion to come to the fore – and this snowball effect of outrage for Ched Evans’ return to the game is the main reason Oldham had a massive u-turn. The sponsors of Oldham Athletic aren’t stupid, and they will have checked Twitter to see the general feeling of people in regards to the convicted rapist. After seeing the vast majority of people express disgust at a possible return, it is an easy ploy to threaten to pull out of sponsorship deals. And I’m sure the threats made by people on Oldham staff by those on Twitter also didn’t get unnoticed.
20 years ago, social media didn’t even exist. As I’ve already stated, football lives in a bubble of its own with its own moral compass which based on previous examples, is pretty non-existent. And because of this, without the internet Ched Evans would be (rightly or wrongly) playing football again.