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The PFAI has removed blog post defending convicted rapist Ched Evans

The article appeared on the association’s website.

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated 10am

THE PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLERS’ Association of Ireland (PFAI) has removed a controversial blog post about Ched Evans and his attempts to return to the game from its website.

The Association came in for fierce criticism overnight for publishing the piece by its lawyer Stuart Gilhooly.

In the piece, the solicitor argues that the former Sheffield United player “deserves a chance at redemption”.

However, he also casts doubt on the conviction and describes how Evans had “sex with a young girl” instead of using the term rape.

The Welshman was convicted of rape in April 2012 and has been recently released from prison after serving two-and-a-half years.

His return to the club for training has sparked a huge conversation, with a number of well-known names weighing in. Jessica Ennis-Hill has told the club that if it re-signs the convicted rapist, then they must remove her name from the club’s stand.

(In response, she herself began to receive threats of rape through Twitter from fans of Evans).

Explaining her decision and stance, the Olympic champion said:

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.

Gilhooly, on the other hand, wrote that “none of us knows for sure” if Evans is guilty or innocent. Although he says it is “hard to like Evans” because he “cheats on his girlfriend… by having sex with a young girl”, he defends his right to return to football.

There is little point in trying to dissect the legal niceties of this very complex issue but suffice to say that Ched Evans has a very arguable case that he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice. If having sex with a drunk woman is rape then thousands of men are guilty of rape every day.  The simple point is that degrees of intoxication are a very difficult concept for young men to grapple with when they themselves have had plenty to drink.

He lists a number of things that should be taken as mitigating factors when looking at the Evans case, including that the victim has “no recollection” of the rape.

The difficult element of this discussion, though, is the part about the scale of the crime. There are people who will say rape is rape and degrees shouldn’t come into it but in sentencing these issues matter. This crime, as alleged, was at the bottom end. There was no violence and thankfully the victim has no recollection of it. This, I hasten to add, does not make it right, or anything close to it, but it is nonetheless a mitigating factor.

The response to the piece has been wildly negative, with the PFAI getting much coverage in British newspapers and across Irish media for its contribution to the debate.

Oliver Brown is a sports writer with the Telegraph:

Alan Smith, who works for The Guardian, described the piece as “incredible”.

Members of the public also expressed their outrage.

Many others wondered why the PFAI said anything about the issue.

Read: Musician Paul Heaton the latest to resign from Sheffield United over Ched Evans

More: Police investigating after rape tweet targets Jessica Ennis-Hill

Related: FA chairman Greg Dyke says Ched Evans is ‘not an important issue’

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