|Signing Ched Evans|
|Written by Mark W|
|Sunday, 04 January 2015 20:02|
It appears that my football club is on the brink of signing a convicted rapist and to be honest the thought sickens me.
A month ago it was reported in the press that Oldham Athletic were speaking to Ched Evans but after outcry from the fans the club were quick to issue a statement denying that he would be allowed to train with the club or that he would be signed. It appears that the stance has now changed.
I have supported the club for the last 25 years and right now I have never felt more distanced from them. It strikes me that whilst there may, on the face of it be some business sense for making such a controversial signing it stinks of having been made by people who just don’t understand what it means to be a fan. It may be that he can score the goals to finally fire us to promotion after 18 years in League One. I’m not sure that’s how I want us to do it though.
It was no surprise to see Oldham being linked with Evans following his release from prison due to our signing of Lee Hughes in 2007 in similar circumstances. It is the history with Hughes, however, that to me means we cannot be the club to give Evans a second chance. I don’t want my club to be known as “that club that will sign anyone no mater of the moral issues involved”. I also know what having a universally unpopular player playing for your club means to a fan.
I was far from happy with the signing of Lee Hughes but I supported him wholeheartedly whilst he was an Oldham player. He scored goals galore for us and each one I celebrated as I would had anyone else scored. He was also abused everywhere we went and as is human nature, that simply led to the Oldham fans giving him even more support. When you have 10,000 opposition fans abusing someone you have taken as one of your own, it is difficult not to respond with adulation for the object of their detest.
Whilst I was able to justify the support for Hughes in my own mind at the time, following his departure I felt dirty for it. I don’t want to be in that place again.
I have read several arguments today referring to the fact that Evans may not have committed the crime he was convicted of. I’m sorry, but that is almost irrelevant. He has been convicted and as such I have no choice but to assume that he did it. If at some point in the future he has the conviction overturned I can reassess the situation but until that point, he is simply a convicted rapist. For those who do follow this line of argument to defend the signing, I presume they must have spent longer reviewing the case notes than the judge did during his trial.
Whilst I couldn’t feel much stronger about the fact that we should not be making this signing, I do not understand in my own mind quite where this leaves me. As I see it I have two options, I either embrace the player as I did with Hughes or I stop giving my support to the team.
I don’t feel that I am able to separate my support for the player with my support for the team. When a goal goes in, I am far too passionate to take a moment to consider who has scored it before celebrating. When your team scores that is the best feeling in football, you can’t start diluting it because of a fear of celebrating a goal from someone you don’t like.
The other thing that I don’t think the powers that be understand is that the club you support becomes part of your personality. To most people I know I am Mark the Oldham fan. It’s just part of me. Rightly or wrongly, that means that I get tarred by things that the club do. Again, I know that from the Lee Hughes days. I don’t want to spend my life trying to justify the signing of Evans.
This season has, the last month aside, been fantastic. We have been playing some excellent football and the atmosphere has been the best I have witnessed in over ten years. It seemed to be every other week that we would get home from an away game to read comments from opposition fans about how well we had played and plaudits for the ‘loudest fans this season’. We can forget about that now. Nobody will be interested in how we’ve played. People will only be interested in ‘the rapist’. I can’t criticize opposition fans for that as I would be exactly the same if the roles were reversed. The atmosphere will suffer too as there is bound to be a split amongst fans. The improvement this year has been down to togetherness with supporters getting behind the club and players. I struggle to believe that the coming weeks will not be dominated by arguments between fans around the merits of Evans. I don’t want to be sat next to people singing his name, with me wanting to distance myself from those very chants.
Whilst I am big enough and ugly enough to take it, lets also not pretend that having opposition fans screaming vile abuse in your face is a pleasant experience. It’s not and it will happen. This certainly isn’t going to help us attract more fans. If I had young children I would think twice about taking them to games to be subjected to that.
The nature of Ched Evans’ crime can’t be ignored. There is a victim of his specific crime but there are also thousands of other victims of rape who are likely to be psychologically affected by the intense media coverage of a rapist playing professional football. Every time it is mentioned on TV or in the press it will be a reminder of what happened to them. Whilst I accept that former inmates should be rehabilitised and reintegrated into society, this should not be in a way that causes further harm to victims. Whichever club signs Evans can not be held responsible for the media coverage but that coverage is inevitable and by making the signing we would be facilitating it.
I desperately hope that today’s reports are untrue and Oldham Athletic are not the club who will be signing Ched Evans but whoever it is, I hope that they think about the fans and decide to reverse their decision before it is too late. If not, I and many like me will be left to contemplate exactly what it means for ourselves and whether it changes the way that we feel about our clubs.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 04 January 2015 23:42|