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Evans blames 'mob rule tactics'

Convicted rapist Ched Evans has blamed the "mob rule tactics employed by the more radical elements of our society" for scuppering his planned return to football with Oldham Athletic.

Evans's controversial move to the League One club collapsed this afternoon after club insiders said threats had been made to staff, and sponsors indicated they would pull out.

In a statement on his website, the former Sheffield United and Wales striker said it was with "great sadness" that he had to pull out from talks with Oldham.

The 26-year-old also condemned the online abuse of his victim, continued to maintain his innocence in the face of his rape conviction and also apologised about what he called "the effects" of the events in a North Wales hotel room which led to his arrest.

Oldham's decision to pull out of the deal was welcomed by campaigners against Evans's return to football and Prime Minister David Cameron said he would have some "real concerns" about taking his children to watch a football match if a convicted rapist was playing.

In his statement Evans said: "It is with great sadness that today I have withdrawn from talks with Oldham Athletic.

"I would like to thank the club, and those who have supported me in my lawful quest to find work. I apologise to the club's supporters, sponsors and all those affected by the last 72 hours.

"Sadly the 'mob rule' tactics employed by the more radical elements of our society and the constant media reporting, has had the desired influence on some sponsors and the club would face significant financial pressure if I joined them.

"The most significant issue for me was that owing to the threat of funding opportunities being withdrawn which may jeopardise the building of Oldham's new stand it would mean that workers would lose their jobs and others would be put at risk - that would simply not be fair."

Evans went on: "Upon legal advice, I chose not to discuss the events in question. My silence has been misinterpreted as arrogance and I would like to state that this could not be further from the truth.

"I do remain limited at present by what I can say due to the ongoing application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and whilst I continue to maintain my innocence, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologise for the effect that that night in Rhyl has had on many people, especially the woman concerned.

"Finally, it has been claimed that those using social media in an abusive and vindictive way towards this woman are supporters of mine. I wish to make it clear that these people are not my supporters and I condemn their actions entirely and will continue to do so."

Evans has served half of a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl in 2011, and remains on licence.

Since his conviction, his victim, who has a legal right to anonymity for life, has moved home five times as online trolls repeatedly tracked her down and revealed her new identity.

One Oldham board member said the deal had been called off partly due to threats to staff and their families, although Greater Manchester Police said they were not aware of any threats to anyone connected to the club.

Jill Saward, who campaigns for rape victims, said Evans's apology was "too little, too late".

She told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I think it's too little too late, really.

"I think the damage has been done and damage has been done for years and particularly in the last three months since his release.

"I think it's a pretty weak statement that's been put together by solicitors."

Asked about Evans's comments about his victim's online abuse, Ms Saward said: "We've been waiting for this condemnation now since it began. So it is good to see that he is actually condemning that. We would like to see that backed up on the website as well."

Oldham Council leader Jim McMahon said: "The whole episode has divided the town and public opinion and there are no winners in all this - not least of all the reputation of our club and town.

"In recent days we've seen a horrendous 'trial by social media' with intimidation, abuse and harassment on a scale that has cast a terrible shadow.

"I am urging people on all sides of this debate to please now take stock, show some restraint and calm."

Greater Manchester's Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd, said: "The club has made the right decision by not signing Ched Evans.

"Whilst it is appropriate that there has been serious debate around this issue, all right-thinking people will be appalled by reports that individuals at the club and their family members have been threatened. Any such reports must be properly investigated by the police."

But the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) said in a statement: "The PFA's position remains the same, as we have expressed previously, that any club which decides to sign him would receive our support.

"We fully recognise that this is a delicate and emotive case and entirely respect that there are opposing views."

Evans denied raping the 19-year-old woman, saying the sex in the hotel was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court in April 2012.

The prosecution said the woman was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.

Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald also admitted having sex with the victim but was found not guilty of the same charge.

Evans's supporters have mounted a vigorous campaign to overturn his conviction, including setting up a website detailing what they say are the flaws in the case against him.

The appeal against Evans's conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012 and the case is currently being considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

His former club, Sheffield United, refused to say whether they would look to re-sign him after he was let out of prison but there was uproar when the Bramall Lane club offered to let him train at their facilities.

More than 150,000 people signed an online petition against that decision and, after Olympic hero Jessica Ennis said she would want her name removed from a stand if Evans was welcomed back, the offer was eventually removed.

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