A Sad Day for The Beautiful Game
Today is a sad day for The Beautiful Game but an opportunity for football to lead the way.
The announcement that convicted rapist Ched Evans will return to training with Sheffield United FC may not come as a surprise but it is no less depressing for that. To those arguing that he has served his time and has a right to rehabilitation, please remember 1) he has only served the custodial portion of his sentence, not all of it and 2) the first stage of rehabilitation must surely involve an acknowledgement of guilt and remorse, neither of which he has shown.
Whether or not they invite it, professional footballers are role models to millions of young fans across the country. SUFC's decision not to release a statement condemning sexual violence has sent a devastating message to those young people, many of whom are just starting to develop their views on relationships with the opposite sex.
Whatever our views on Ched Evans though, this is not just about one case, one high profile footballer. This is about the message being sent by those who have the privilege to influence and tragically it is not just Sheffield United who have remained silent. Locally there has been no statement from Brighton and Hove Albion, a club that prides itself on being embedded within the local community and is actively aware of the opportunity it has to speak to young men and boys. The implicit message can only be 'we condone such violence'.
Luckily there is the perfect opportunity to rectify this. November 25th is White Ribbon Day, when men globally stand up and say 'we condemn all forms of violence against women'. Imagine the impact there would be if BHAFC were to celebrate the day. It might start with the players, or the club, but it would stay with the young fans.
BHAFC I urge you, do not miss this opportunity.