Talking Sport - Time for the governing bodies to govern

Phil Wilkinson
Phil Wilkinson

A LOT has been said about whether Ched Evans should be allowed to play football again ... but little by the people who should be making the decision.

FA chairman Greg Dyke refused to talk about the issue back in November, and their silence since has been deafening.

So far, the footballing comeback of Evans, a convicted rapist, has been halted by pressure from fans, or sponsors, or both.

Sheffield United declined to re-sign him, then Hartlepool, now Oldham.

To say it is a prickly subject is an understatement. On the one hand, many would prefer him to see him spend the rest of his life paying taxes, rather than taking ours through unemployment benefits.

He’s served his time, they say (though actually, he hasn’t; he’s been released under licence, hence he can’t relaunch his career abroad). And there’s precedent here; Oldham previously threw a lifeline to Lee Hughes after he’d served time for death by dangerous driving, and there have been plenty of other examples of players returning to the pitch after convictions.

But, on the other hand, the thought of Evans playing football again and earning so much money, and potentially being idolised by so many, is nauseating. Imagine if he played for your club, and your son had his poster on his wall. All of which could be avoided if the FA acted like the NFL, NRL, UFC and many other sports bodies and offered guidance and rules.

In American Football, for example, players have to obey by certain social standards – if not, they are barred.

But in football in this country, it is left to clubs to be the moral guardians.

And they are under pressure from their fans and sponsors. At Oldham, Mecca Bingo threatened to pull the plug on their financial support if Evans was offered a deal. Oldham aren’t a rich club. They rely on sponsors. Now is not the time for the FA to be silent. It’s time for the game’s governing body to govern. A time for them to agree a code of conduct with players, to – at the very least – avoid future issues like this.

And that’s not to say footballers have to be whiter than white; let them and the FA debate and decide what crimes may warrant second chances, and what are so serious, they shouldn’t.

A convicted rapist would not be allowed to return to being a teacher, policeman or doctor. Should a rapist be allowed to play professional football again?

I’d rather the FA have the biggest say on that decision, rather than Mecca Bingo.

I QUITE like Warrington coach Tony Smith, and I usually respect his views. But I was surprised by his comment in the Warrington Guardian last week: “Sometimes it takes overseas players some time to settle in. For those that can recall, Trent Barrett’s first year for Wigan wasn’t too special and raised a lot of eyebrows as to whether he should stay.”

That’s the same Trent Barrett who won Wigan’s player of the year, Super League’s players’ player of the year, and only missed out on the Man of Steel through a robbery greater than the great train robbery!

I wonder if he was thinking of Pat Richards instead.