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Ennis-Hill protests over Ched Evans

Olympic gold-medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill has told Sheffield United that she would want her name removed from a stand at the football club's ground if convicted rapist Ched Evans is re-signed.

The heptathlete had a side of the League One club's Bramall Lane ground named in her honour after her triumph at the London 2012 games.

But tonight the Sheffield-born athlete waded into the row over the club's widely-criticised decision to allow unrepentant sex offender Evans to train with his former team following his release from prison after serving half of a five-year term.

In a statement, Ennis-Hill said she would want her name removed if Evans was offered a contract, adding: "I believe being a role model to young people is a huge honour and those in positions of influence in communities should respect the role they play in young people's lives and set a good example.

"If Evans was to be re-signed by the club, it would completely contradict these beliefs."

Campaigners against sexual violence have criticised the club's decision to allow Evans, 25, to train with the team to regain fitness.

TV presenter Charlie Webster, Sixties pop star Dave Berry and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham have all resigned as patrons of the club since Evans returned to training.

Welsh international Evans was jailed in April 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, North Wales.

The striker denied raping the woman, saying the sex was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.

An appeal against Evans's conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012. His case is due to be looked at by the Criminal Case Review Commission.

After his release, Evans put a video on his website protesting his innocence and vowing to clear his name.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, a Sheffield MP, said earlier that if it was his decision, he would not have let Evans return to his former side.

But Mr Clegg indicated that he believed the Welsh international should be allowed to resume his career, possibly with a foreign club.

He said Evans's position as a role model meant the the club should think "long and hard" before deciding whether to allow him to return to the Blades

Mr Clegg said: "Footballers are not just any old employee, they are obviously athletes but they are role models and a lot of kids look up to them.

"This is an incredibly serious offence, a very serious offence for which he has been convicted and that's what sets this apart."

He told LBC Radio: "If it was me, I wouldn't take him on."

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke refused to comment on Evans, insisting he was on BBC2's Newsnight to discuss Fifa's probe into World Cup bidding.

Asked if Evans should be allowed to play for Sheffield United again, Mr Dyke replied: "I don't want to get in to that tonight. I don't think that's what I am here for."

Told he was the leader of football in England, Mr Dyke said: "I'm quite happy to talk about this (Fifa's probe). I don't really want to talk about Ched Evans. I think it's a much more complicated story than having five minutes here."

Asked if he should take a lead on the issue, Mr Dyke said: "Here's the straightforward question - are people who go to prison entitled to come out of prison and to try and rebuild their lives or aren't they? Or is what they've done so bad and because they're in an industry where their image is important - and that's the dilemma and it's not clear cut.

"I would rather talk about this if you don't mind."

Told the Evans case was an important issue, Mr Dyke said: "It's not an important issue, er, it is an important issue, but not in terms of what you asked me to come on and talk about."

Asked if people would accept he did not have a view to give on Evans, Mr Dyke replied: "What I would talk about is when you phoned me up and asked me to come on here tonight you asked me to talk about this, not to talk about Ched Evans."


From Belfast Telegraph