As Ched Evans scores on his competitive debut, Laura Jones asks whether his reputation will be forever tainted.Embed from Getty Images
Reputations can be easily stained. Look at World Champion cyclist Lizzie Armistead who, despite being cleared to compete in the Olympics, has the cloud of suspicion hanging over her about potentially doping.
There hasn’t been any evidence that Armistead has taken any illegal substances. However, missing one drugs test is regrettable, but missing three in the year you become World Champion leaves a question mark as pointy as the Sword of Damocles hanging directly above her head.
Why is that, when she has been cleared by the doping authorities?
On the day, she gave an emotional interview to the BBC, where she said, “I will have to come to the point of accepting that people will doubt me forever.” Another sports person launched their bid for reputation rehabilitation in the Football League.
Ched Evans started his football career afresh at League 1 club Chesterfield at the weekend. It’s well known that Evans was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2012, served two and a half years in prison and had his conviction quashed in April this year. The Spirerites striker will face a retrial in October.
For this reason, I won’t talk about the details of Evans case but look at where this leaves him as a sportsman.
Evans has had a mixed response from fans. Some are glad he’s been given another chance to redeem himself because they believe in his innocence and others are vehemently opposed to his return to football because of another potential guilty verdict and the level of victim blaming from the Evans camp.
Ched Evans is in a state of limbo (as is the woman involved in the case). He is neither innocent nor guilty at this stage despite already serving a prison sentence.
This is not an Adam Johnson case, where the evidence was clear that he had groomed the young victim. Evans’ case has ambiguity and this is why his conviction was defeated and a retrial ordered for October.
It’s a question of trust for the fans. Do the fans trust Ched Evans now? How can they when his guilt or innocence is floating around in the ether.
Whatever the outcome of Ched Evans’ retrial, there will be those who take pleasure out of making him uncomfortable, those who think it’s funny to joke about rape and those who think that his actions were morally reprehensible even when the law isn’t applied.
It’s difficult to see, if the striker is found innocent, that he will be treated differently than he is today. Oxford United fans jeered his every movement on Saturday. He can expect that at every ground he visits and psychologically, that is going to have an effect on his ability to perform.
Chesterfield manager Danny Wilson described Evans’ first performance as “rusty” in his post-match press conference. Hardly a surprise considering his four year absence but the Welsh striker equalised with a 25 yard free kick to salvage a draw against Oxford United.
Ched Evans is a talented footballer. His scoring average is roughly one goal every two games, a valuable commodity to a lot of clubs looking for a consistent striker. If he is cleared of his rape conviction then Chesterfield have the ability to make money from any later transfer but I suppose it depends on what side of the moral fence you sit.
If Ched Evans is found to be innocent, it won’t matter – he will be doubted forever and he will have to deal with the taunts from the opposition and maybe even his own fans.