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Phipps attacks 'mob-like' behaviour

The co-chairman of Sheffield United has blamed "mob-like behaviour" for the club's decision to retract their offer to allow convicted rapist Ched Evans to train with the Blades.

Jim Phipps told a news conference at Bramall Lane that he was "angry" the League One club had not been able to let their former striker use their facilities for training purposes.

But many others welcomed the move, which came after a huge public outcry and the resignation of four club patrons.

Mr Phipps said: " The influence of mob-like behaviour has made it difficult to take the simple step of allowing Ched to train."

He added: " I'm angry that we are not able to get a chance to do for this footballer what should be done. I'm upset that we are not able to do what we wanted to do, but I acknowledge that my view is not the only view.

Mr Phipps said Sheffield United did not expect the response the decision received, which saw television presenter Charlie Webster, sixties pop star Dave Berry, musician Paul Heaton and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham all quitting their roles as club patrons.

A petition against Evans rejoining attracted more than 165,000 signatures and Sheffield Olympic heptathlon gold-medal winner Jessica Ennis-Hill said she wanted her name removed from the stand named after her if the Blades offered Evans a deal.

The Blades co-chairman said footballers should be entitled to the same right of rehabilitation as other offenders and said the club's decision to not allow Evans to train with them could make it harder for him to resume his footballing career.

He said: "It is not fair to treat a footballer differently, they should have a right of rehabilitation like everyone else. We are not ashamed of that view in the slightest.

"That has found resistance, some of that has been in the nature of a mob resistance, willing to impose a penalty which the law does not contemplate.

"We have made a principled stand, that has yielded a furore much more significant than we anticipated."

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) said Evans should be given an opportunity to return to football but said it may be to the benefit of Sheffield United and Evans for him to cut ties with his former club.

The PFA said: "We do not agree that society should impose different rules for footballers which go beyond the position of the law. In that regard, it is hoped that Ched will be given an opportunity at another club to return to the job he is trained to do."

Former patron Charlie Webster was among those who welcomed the decision.

Ms Webster said on Twitter that Sheffield United had "done the right thing" by not allowing Evans to train with them.

She tweeted: " It's the right thing for the club, its fans, its community and the victim. (Sheffield United) is a great club with a fantastic history and now its future can be fantastic too."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is MP for Sheffield Hallam, tweeted: "A sensible decision by Sheffield United regarding Ched Evans. Step in the right direction."

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said: " I'm pleased that Sheffield United has listened to the huge range of concerns and made the right decision. We're a great club with great values and that's reflected in tonight's announcement."

Evans was released from prison last month after serving half of a five-year sentence following his conviction for raping a 19-year-old woman in Rhyl, North Wales.

The 25-year-old has always maintained his innocence despite being found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court in April 2012 and is currently appealing against the conviction.

Sheffield United's statement explained that he had been allowed to train at the club following a request from the PFA.

"The reaction to this has been at an intensity that could not have been anticipated when first announced," it said.

"As noted in previous statements from the club, the legal system of this country provides for both the punishment and the rehabilitation of every person who has been found guilty of a crime."

It also said it trusted that Evans would be given a fair hearing at the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

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