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This week, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Gordon Taylor, compared the ‘plight’ of convicted rapist Ched Evans with that of the families of Hillsborough victims. “He wouldn’t be the first person or persons to be found guilty and maintain their innocence and then been proven right,” he told the BBC.
Naturally, his crass choice of words provoked fury across the Twittersphere and calls for Taylor to quit, or at least to apologise to Hillsborough victim families – which he did.
Taylor clarified his comments, swiftly stating: “The point I was making was not to embarrass or upset anybody at all among the Liverpool supporters. I’m very much an admirer of them and they know that.”
Well, I hate to break it to you, Gordon, but you have another apology to make: the one to the victim of the rape for which Ched Evans was found guilty by jury in 2012.
Mr Taylor, by making statements about Ched being ‘proven right’, makes clear his underlying assumption that Ched Evans is in fact free of any wrongdoing – the implication being that the UK justice system has let the footballer down and incarcerated an innocent man.
He wouldn’t be the only one doing this, either. In this week’s Spectator, Rod Liddle describes an “utterly ludicrous and petty campaign against Ched Evans”, implying that the petitions against Evans hold no weight and somewhat bizarrely claiming that Evans’ return to professional football will not put him in a position of ‘influence’ anyway. (Rod, I have two words for you: MIKE TYSON.)
I could list other (male) pundits and experts from the football community who have, deliberately or inadvertently, revealed their underlying beliefs that ‘poor’ Ched Evans has been run through the mill unnecessarily and that he is more the victim in a terrible witch hunt than a rapist.
Just to be clear, Ched Evans is not a victim. His rape victim is the victim. That is, the woman who was raped in a hotel room, then identified and abused by Twitter trolls, then had to change her name and move house five times in under three years and this year had to spend Christmas away from her family and friends as it was “too risky for her to visit”.
We put our faith in the UK justice system and that system found Ched Evans guilty of a crime. Repeatedly denying the charges does not make the perpetrator innocent, no matter how many high-profile footballing pundits imply that it does.
Gordon Taylor has apologised to Liverpool families who suffered a miscarriage of justice; I would like to see him apologise to the victim of a crime that he appears to have conveniently erased from his version of history: the rape of a woman by Ched Evans. She deserves an apology too.
Polly Courtney is a writer, commentator and amateur footballer. She is passionate about equality in all its forms.