Birflatt Boy: having his say on Ched Evans, crime and punishment

Malcolm Dawson writes….although primarily a site dedicated to SAFC and its supporters, Salut! Sunderland is also not averse to publishing articles on general footballing issues.


Birflatt Boy is never one to shy away from difficult issues. The world is changing and some things which were once deemed acceptable are now considered taboo. Modern society is less tolerant than it was on some issues, yet far more accepting of others. Certainly in my 60 years on this planet I have seen attitudes change, generally for the better in my view, as society seeks to protect individuals from the disrespectful, irresponsible or simply harmful and criminal behaviour of others. Birflatt Boy considers the current furore surrounding Ched Evans as he attempts to re-establish himself in professional football …


Ched Evans (the former Man City and Sheffield United striker), was recently released from prison after serving half of his prison sentence for the rape of a 19-year-old woman in October 2011.

His former employers at Sheffield United, were joined by other clubs including Hartlepool (and, so far though still undecided, Oldham Athletic) who have resisted the temptation to sign him after protests from supporters and sponsors. Adding further fuel to what is already a considerable fire, a vociferous supporter of Evans’s victim, who blogs under the name Jean Hatchet and has collected scores of thousands of signatures in a campaign to prevent him being signed by another club, has been interviewed by the BBC and claimed Evans “doesn’t know what rape is”.

On his release Evans was quoted as saying that he “had done nothing wrong”, but said that he did regret cheating on his girlfriend.

It seems the lack of remorse for the crime of which he has been convicted is what angers people the most. The petition made to Oldham is stark in its objectives: “We believe that he has the right to work. We believe that it does not have to be in a role where he influences views about sexual violence, and his presence on the pitch will do this.”

The petitioners don’t make it clear in what way playing football will influence the views of others with respect to sexual violence, if at all, and I wonder what the reaction would have been by the petitioners if Evans had been an engineer, a plumber of a postman. It seems that their objective is simply to prevent Evans from playing football. That is what he does, because that is what he’s good at.

Most reasonable people would understand the sense of discomfort at the suggestion that their club might be about to sign a registered and convicted sex offender, but I can’t recall the same antipathy expressed to Oldham when they previously signed Lee Hughes on his release from prison, after serving half of his six-year sentence for causing the death of a father-of-four by dangerous driving.

Since his release, he has also been fined for the common assault of a young woman, though a sexual assault charge was dropped.

Birflatt Boy weighs up the controversy
Birflatt Boy weighs up the controversy

Marlon King, was jailed for 18 months in 2009 for a sexual assault on a student in a London nightclub. He groped the woman’s bottom and then punched her in the face when she rejected him. King was subsequently convicted of dangerous driving, in March last year, after his Porsche was involved in three car pile up which left one man seriously injured. He was jailed again.

Interestingly, King played for Sheffield United, one of the clubs who had been considering signing Evans, since his release after serving the assault sentence.

Yet Neither King nor Hughes’s crimes and punishment seem to have resulted in the sort of hysteria which is now engulfing Evans. Ched Evans has not apologised to his victim, although those who petition against him working for a living seem to think he should. Evans claims he is innocent, despite his conviction. He has sought leave to appeal but this was refused, a decision then upheld by the Court of Appeal, though Criminal Cases Review Commission launched a review of his conviction after his release.

There are several moral quandaries here. Why should someone who has served his time be punished further by being prevented from earning his living in his chosen profession?

Some professional footballers are loutish, arrogant, and their behaviour can be offensive and repugnant, even criminal, as we have seen.

However who is the greatest criminal? The man who causes death by dangerous driving, or he who is guilty of sexual assault or rape? What happened to the notion that a person serves their time and can then get on with their lives? Ched Evans has paid his debt to society having served hard time. Apparently during his incarceration he was working as a painter and decorator within the prison. Do his petitioners think he has a right to work doing that? Are those who protest at the continuation of his career as a footballer going to picket the householder where he turns up to paint their scullery?

All reasonable people are offended by sex crimes regardless of who the perpetrator may be, but it seems like the anti-Evans campaign is offended by his steadfast refusal to apologise or acknowledge the offence, rather than the offence itself. He has a right to pick up his career where he left off. I wonder where the protesters were when Lee Hughes arrived at Oldham and Marlon King at Sheffield United?

20 thoughts on “Birflatt Boy: having his say on Ched Evans, crime and punishment”

  1. David Cameron has now entered the debate, suggesting that Evans “needs to do more to put back in to the community some sense of atonement for what he’s done before he restarts his career.”

    It’s a fair point of course, but in effect it’s expecting Evans to assume the position of a guilty man. He’s likely to be unwilling to do this, if he considers himself innocent. There’s a distinction to be drawn here between protesting his own innocence and sincerely believing in it, of course.

    Evans has since produced an apology for “the effects of his actions” on all concerned including the woman he was convicted of raping. I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering what that really means at the end of the day.

    Irrespective of his conviction there are still people who remain unconvinced whether any offence was actually committed as well as those who believe his sentence was too lenient.

    Regardless of the arguments one way or the other, it really is time to let this matter rest, and for everyone concerned, not least the victim assume as normal a life as possible as soon as possible.

    It’s difficult also to judge the collective mindset of those protesters so vehemently opposed to Evans continuing his football career, but if the objective was that he should be made an example of, it has most certainly achieved that end. More than one lesson has been learned by Ched Evans, I’m quite sure.

  2. Mark, you seem to know more of the details of the situation than I do, but as an analogy (imperfect I know): following a car accident which was not your fault the other driver then blames you for causing it. Are you supposed to feel sorry that they might have been injured?

    • KenG, in this analogy it wouldn’t be the other driver who blamed you, it would be a bystander, and so yes you should show some sympathy for the injured party even if it was their fault.

      Anyway, at least Evans has said he has sympathy for the effects of his actions, finally!

  3. I agree broadly with the sentiments on here ,in certain cases not all, a felon must be granted a second chance . I think Ched Evans deserves a second chance ,but ability aside would I want him signing for us , I honestly don’t know . The fall out would be horrendous so I understand the reluctance of others to have him at their team , there’s just no easy answer to this. We are a family club as are most of the lower league teams who are interested in him ,but also throwing someone on the scrap heap benefits no one and should be avoided unless the crime is so horrific that no forgiveness can ever be given .So on reflection , would I like him signing for us ? I honestly don’t know.

  4. We don’t really know the details of the case but if Ched Evans, rightly or wrongly, feels he is innocent, then why should he show contrition for something he didn’t do.The whole situation smacks of a witch-hunt and if the 20,000 who signed the petition attended games Oldham would be a much stronger club. I doubt very much the role-model idea. I had heroes as a child but not for one minute did i think that Jim Baxter getting bladdered every night meant that this was acceptable and that it would be fine for me to behave in the same way.It was on the pitch he was the role-model, not in his private life.

    • Why should he show contrition for something he didn’t do?
      Even if he is 100% innocent you would think he would show some sympathy to the ‘victim’ and what they’ve been put through, remember she didn’t contact the police nor press charges.

  5. Neither apologising, nor subsequently being proved innocent will guarantee him a job (although it may make it more likely). That’s why the basis of this discussion is flawed.

    In a sense it’s almost irrelevant what actually happened. No footballer is guaranteed a job in football. That may not be fair, but it’s as fair as any other professional being put out of work.

    If nobody wants him, there’s nothing that can be done.

    • It does appear that he is [was?] wanted (by his original club, Hartlepool and Oldham, to name 3 clubs) but clubs are afraid to take him on because of public disapproval, as expressed via social media, or the possibility of loss of sponsorship. The latter could be because sponsors are afraid of public disapproval as expressed by social media.

      I wonder how much public disapproval really exists and how much social media allows magnification of that which is there.

  6. There are some very relevant points being raised in this debate. Thank you to all those who have posted.

    In response to Mr Hedley. It seems that this case has polarised opinion for several reasons. There are some people who think that the sentence (and indeed time served), is too lenient. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who are dubious about whether rape was actually committed and feel that Evans has been punished for a non-crime. The latter group would certainly not expect Evans to apologise, while the former would.

    In the cases of Hughes and King, some benevolence has been bestowed on them for apologising for their wrong doing. However servile their responses may have been, both are repeat offenders when it comes to breaking the criminal code. In Hughes case the man who died, is still dead and the girl who had his hand up her skirt remains groped.

    We live in a world of protest through ‘clicktivism’ where people can express opinions and offer “support” of the most virtual kind. The question which remains is whether those who feel Evans should apologise, take the view that he has to offer that apology to the victim or to the general public.

  7. There is strength in the arguments by both sides and we had a player who seemed to be regularly accused of rape. Some even claim that another party took the rap on one occasion. This arrogance portrayed by some players and a lack of respect for women in general has been endemic in football certainly since the sixties and women often willing participants are reputed to be handed round like pieces of meat in group sex sessions.

    Just as with UKIP who are not only unlikely to govern the country and arguably have few candidates capable of serving as MPs the swell of support has little to do with anything other than a huge groundswell of discontent at the fact the three major parties ignore what the voters want.

    One aspect of this is a desire to see justice done and in this case many consider the sentence in the first place was too lenient and early release for someone who shows no remorse is unjustified.

    The judicial system has as little respect these days from those wishing to see justice done as it has from those that flout the law.

    If the public considered that the punishment actually fitted the crime and the sentence had been served they might be more willing to see Evans re-employed in football. He remains guilty of the crime until an appeal is successful

  8. This is a tough one to resolve. It is hard for Ched Evans to show suitable remorse if he honestly feels that he did not commit a crime, and there have been a number of miscarriages of justice over the years.

    Evans was convicted of rape, and although I have not been following the case as closely as some other Sunderland fans, it is a terrible crime for which he has served his time. If he is not allowed to practice his profession, then he may be a burden on society for decades to come.

    OK he is appealing his conviction, but in my view he should issue some form of sincere apology, and be allowed to rebuild his life in any way he can. Time will tell if our society is compassionate enough to accept him back.

  9. There is also the interesting argument of what his employment should/could be, many opinions have been expressed that he be allowed to get on with his chosen career as it’s ‘what he’s good at’ and ‘the only thing he can do’ – that argument would not, correctly, hold any credence if he was: a teacher; a policeman; a prison officer; a member of the armed forces. The argument is that these positions hold a moral responsibility and therefore anyone transgressing certain laws should be banned from holding those positions, again quite correctly. Therefore, anyone having those roles would need to find alternative employment, and would be hounded if found trying to regain such a position. Does a footballer have an equal measure of moral responsibility given their celebrity/role model status? Something they are more than happy to embrace when it comes to endorsements and advertising. And what about community work with children and women (an integral part of many sporting contracts), what would his role be?
    There is far more to this question than simply ‘serving his time’: some roles in society require more, maybe being a footballer/sporting personality is now one of them, and such consequences must be accepted.

  10. The difference is that both Lee Hughes and Marlon King apologised and admitted wrong doing. Evans has failed to do this, and thinks he’s done nothing wrong apart from cheat on his girlfriend.
    I don’t blame a club for not wanting to sign him if there’s still the possibility he’ll do the same again.

    • I won’t hide behind my thumbs-down. The crime of which he was convicted is reprehensible and vlie but as long as he maintains his innocence he cannot apologise for it.

      The apologies from the odious pair of Hughes and King do not make them more honourable and therefore worthy of employment without the current nausea surrounding Evans.

      There isn’t a news article or a television news broadcast that doesn’t start with the words “The convicted rapist Ched Evans” as if he has had a name change. The coverage by the BBC is a disgrace (nothing new there then!).

      He was found guilty in a court of law and has served his time although far too short in my book. That said he should be allowed to go back to work. Granted that there are professions who cannot employ a registered sex offender and for good reason but if footballers are regarded as role models, therefore can’t be allowed to resume their careers, why are there so many PL players currently playing with drug convictions, drink drive convictions? Missing drug tests is a good one. Assault convictions? How many? Joey Barton still gets a game after his chokey-time. Being caught with prostitutes is acceptable when you’re at the top of the England pile. Caught on CCTV stealing from handbags in a nightclub girls cloakroom. Doesn’t matter, you can still play PL football.

      Didn’t seem to affect their careers as players and role models.

      I admit the Law hasn’t come out of this well but the Rule of Mob cannot be above the Rule of Law and he is entitled to resume his career. He’ll pay for it on every pitch but that’s his burden.

      • Guardian sports writer David Conn: “There’s been no decency shown to her after the event. You can still say ‘I maintain my innocence of the crime, while apologising for what I did which I don’t dispute,’ and show some decency and empathy for this woman.

        “When I saw that Evans’ supporters’ website, and understood the way the victim has continued to be treated, that was a tipping point for me to make me feel that he has not done enough to show himself as someone who should have that second chance. I don’t think he’s ready yet.”

      • “as long as he maintains his innocence he cannot apologise for it.”

        This is a real worry if he feels his actions were fine and need no apology whatsoever, he could still maintain his innocence but admit that he acted unwisely and apologise for making the victim feel the way she did, but no this arrogant man thinks this behaviour is the norm, as the original poster commented “whose to say he won’t do the same again?”

  11. The above article asks this question: “Why should someone who has served his time be punished further by being prevented from earning his living in his chosen profession?”

    The correct answer to that (IMO) is that they shouldn’t (be punished further), and there are legal rules about this under employment law. But that’s not exactly what’s happening – is it?

    He is not banned from playing football, and no employer has illegally prevented him from plying his trade. What’s happening is that clubs are deferring to public opinion and not gambling on signing him. Nobody has a duty to sign him and he does not have a right to be signed – just as nobody else has a legal right to any kind of job. Otherwise there’d be zero unemployment; and while it might be a shame etc, that’s just tough luck on his part.

    The point about Oldham and Lee Hughes is a good one; but all that means is that a football club is guilty of double standards when it suits them (hold the front page!).

    I believe in the value of the rehabilitation of offenders, and both sides have to meet it halfway. It doesn’t appear that Evans had made it that far yet. The woman’s supporters may be vindictive, but that’s hardly surprising. Whatever the truth of the case, somebody is going to feel unfairly treated; but the world doesn’t always work to the benefit of everybody.

  12. I broadly agree with Birflatt Boy. Rape is a vile crime. But, as I saw someone arguing on the box last night, the punishment for Evans was imprisonment, not unemployment.

    The petitioners seem to me to have no right to decide which offences exclude a footballer from future employment and which do not, or which trades and professions are exempt from such a draconian approach.

    Evans stands convicted but wants to appeal. His case is being reviewed. It is a tricky area but all persons are entitled to protest their innocence of criminal wrongdoing. He could issue a statement that acknowledged the victim’s feelings, stopping short of any admission of criminal guilt, but this would not be remotely enough to satisfy those clamouring for him to be thrown out of work.

    I realise others will take a different view, Whatever you feel, please bear in mind the usual rules of decency and legality in anything you post.

    • M Salut – as a professional journalist you are used to working in world where (it appears to those of us on the outside) an individual’s morality does not affect his or her ability to do the job. Indeed in the case of some journalists, a lack of morality would appear to be a strength in their chosen profession.

      In the teaching world, where I spent almost all my working life, I was always aware that I had a duty of care to those around me and I was expected and expected myself and my colleagues, to set good examples of personal behaviour to those in my care.

      I would be somewhat disconcerted if a former Primary School Headteacher, found guilty of inappropriate behaviour towards his pupils was able to return to a job putting him in direct contact with children or young adults, whether he had been punished or not.

      I also support the rehabilitation of offenders and believe people should be given a chance to integrate back into society after a prison sentence. The main question thrown up by Birflatt Boy, I feel is whether those who earn a living from professional sport, entertainment etc. should expect to be treated more like a teacher, doctor etc or more like MPs, merchant bankers etc who no matter how little morality they display just seem to move from one highly lucrative job to another.

      • I have written a great deal about journalistic standards and wrongdoing, lending no support to excesses, but also about the unlimited funds made available to investigate and prosecute what are, for the most part, pretty trivial matters. Not to mention carefully timed and in my view deeply prejudicial sequential or overlapping trials. But not here: you’d need to look between the andouillettes at!

        This is an excellent, well-argued and restrained debate – same goes for what has appeared at the Salut! Sunderland Facebook group – exactly what I hoped when deciding Birflatt Boy’s piece had an absolute right to be seen

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