Oldham pull out of Ched Evans deal

Oldham Athletic have pulled out of a deal to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans, citing "unbearable pressure".

Striker Evans was released from prison in October after serving half of a five-year sentence and has been seeking a return to professional football.

The Welshman was originally offered the chance to return to training with former club Sheffield United, only for the Yorkshire club to end their pursuit amid pressure from sponsors and club patrons.

League One side Oldham were the latest club to be linked with a move for his services but they have now withdrawn their interest, stating that staff had been the subject of death threats. 

A statement on Oldham's website read: "It has been widely reported that Oldham Athletic will not be signing Ched Evans, which we can now confirm.

"The whole issue has divided opinion and the club has been put under unbearable pressure as a result.

"Proceeding could have placed significant financial pressure on the club and continued to be a divisive influence. As a consequence the deal could not go ahead.

"As a club we condemn all crime including rape and irrespective of any appeal procedure it was always the case that we were prepared to withstand the barrage of abuse that is evident within the country and on social media. 

"We deplore and condemn the vile and abusive threats, some including death threats, which have been made to our fans, sponsors and staff whilst this process has been in the public domain.

"Finally, we would like to place on record our gratitude to all who have supported the club during this difficult period, including the club staff, who have retained their focus throughout and in addition to Ched and his team who have acted with professionalism at all times.

"We understand Ched has released his own statement on his website.

"The club will not be making any further statement on this matter."

Earlier on Thursday, Evans showed the first sign of contrition over his rape conviction via the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

In a statement released through the PFA, he said: "I do remain limited at present by what I can say due to the ongoing referral 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 effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least 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."

PFA chairman Gordon Taylor reiterated the union's support for Evans, telling Sky Sports News: "We respect other people's views but we respect his right to work. We're his union and we have to protect him.

"We saw the problems at Sheffield United and the response there, they pulled out, and the same has happened at Oldham."