1. ITV Report

"80%" chance of signing Ched Evans says Oldham's owner

Ched Evans Photo: PA images

Ched Evans appears to have secured a route back into professional football after Oldham's joint owner Simon Corney confirmed there is an "80 per cent" chance of the convicted rapist being signed.

Corney believes Evans "has served his time" and said the decision to give the 26-year-old a chance had been agreed unanimously by all six members of the Oldham board - despite vociferous opposition and sponsors severing ties with the League One club.

"We believe he has served his time," Corney told the Jewish Chronicle. "There is an 80 per cent chance of us signing him. It won't be done today [Wednesday]. It's not straightforward and there are some legal issues.

"There might be a cost implication, but you have to stick to your principles. We weren't surprised by the backlash."

Corney said three unnamed Premier League club managers had contacted him to offer their support, and that he respect the views of those who thought Evans should not be allowed back into professional football.

He added: "I completely understand people's views and I respect them. I would never tell people they are wrong to have their own views. But we want people to keep them in check.

"I hope people don't get too carried way and it doesn't get too hot."

Evans was released from prison last October, halfway through a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman.

Discussions between Oldham and the Professional Footballers' Association have continued over Evans' signing and there have been reports that he and the club have agreed personal terms ahead of an announcement on Thursday, with a two-and-a-half-year deal being suggested for the Wales international striker.

A club spokesman confirmed they hoped to make a statement on Thursday, prompting a negative response from sponsors.

One, Verlin Rainwater Solutions, announced it was cutting ties with the club immediately.

Craig Verling, a director of Verlin Rainwater Solutions - which sponsors a stand at Boundary Park - said in a statement: "After receiving the news regarding the imminent signing of Ched Evans, it is with great regret that Verlin Rainwater Solutions will no longer be associated with Oldham Athletic.

"We would like to take this opportunity to make clear that we feel that Mr Evans should be able to lead a life without further punishment after serving his sentence, although our feelings remain the same that this should not be within the public domain where his previous behaviour may influence the next generation."

Another Oldham sponsor, ZenOffice, warned it would sever its five-year relationship with the club if the Evans signing went ahead.

The club have been aware that some sponsors and the local council are unhappy at the prospect, but look determined to push ahead with the signing, while major sponsor Sports Direct - owned by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley - has remained silent on the issue.

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