FOOTBALLER CHED EVANS currently stands convicted of rape. He’s served two and a half years of his five-year prison sentence and he’s just been released. Although Evans has an upcoming case review and maintains his own innocence, he’s guilty until proven otherwise.
But really, Ched Evans’ guilt is immaterial to the discussions currently dominating the mainstream media. We’ve made this rape case all about us.
There are 150,000 people who have signed a well-publicised petition to ban him from ever playing football again; meanwhile the UK’s shadow sports minister, Clive Efford, has openly called for Evans not to be employed in the game again.
If your children are mindlessly imitating the actions of footballers without any intervention, you’re a bad parent
If those pressures don’t expedite the justice process, nothing ever will – yet people still feel that a fast-tracked case review somehow constitutes special treatment for the former Sheffield United frontman.
Were Evans’ conviction to be overturned, the damage might already be done by these campaigns against him (damage which, as it stands, he has done to himself). If his conviction is upheld, all the better for more prompt closure.
The baleful reactions roused by Evans’ case have illuminated a more general problem, though, of people carelessly taking for granted some of the stoutest pillars of our society; principles and laws long fought for and hard-won.
Forget the case review, the law says that someone has served their time – and that’s that. Punishment served. Superficially at least we like to say that we aren’t run by mob-rule in this society. But if you’re going to pick and choose when to apply your principles, you’ll have hollowed them out by the time you really come to need them. We have to have some faith that, in the long-term, laws are better than us just making things up on the hoof.
And yes, it is very easy for me to sit here and say all this – but if it were me or one of my family or friends who was the victim here, I would still have to lump it. Because principles are not applied merely to the extent that my emotional capacity will allow. They’re tougher than that, and they’re supposed to be. If we still have a problem, we need to take it up with our justice system – not Ched Evans.
Ban everyone. Everywhere.
You could be forgiven for thinking, after following this news story, that football was the only high-paying profession in the world. You’d think that they are the only people who are sculpted into false idols by a melodramatic media; the only ones beamed into our homes day and night; the only faces our children see and imitate; the only public figures who acquire demigod status through the incomprehensibly feverish loyalty of those who champion them.
Many think that it is perverse to allow a convicted rapist like Ched Evans to return to earning a relatively large wage. Yet people in countless professions beyond football earn unthinkably high sums of money; they can do equally terrible things. Even more so than footballers, we promote these people’s names and faces as role models.
So, I look forward to a similar petition the next time anyone finishes serving their time for a rape charge. He won’t be allowed back to work either, I can safely presume? Because the punishment is never complete.
Depressingly, this episode has seen numerous people plunge enthusiastically into classism – classism that has been woven into the psyche of all of us. Footballers are, in the popular estimation, wankers.
They’re nouveau-riche wankers, too – and we’ve somehow, unquestioningly, adopted that disdain handed down to us from on high. We’re all ready to get the knives out in the same way as for the much-maligned and caricatured ‘chav’.
Why do we target the footballer for especially venomous denigration, who in most cases is neither qualified nor equipped to earn much more than buttons once he’s the wrong side of 35? All your other high-flyer professionals would have little trouble finding a new source of income even if a million of us picketed their preferred place of work.
Clive Efford says that a rape conviction would restrict the work of many other professionals, but not all. And picking on footballers is easy, arbitrary witch-hunting. Life is far from simple or rewarding for many footballers and the sport still takes barely rudimentary care of its players – a topic that could fill a whole tome in itself.
Parents: stop outsourcing
Ched Evans is hardly the first footballer who, having committed a serious offence, has been chided for being a poor role model to ‘the children’ – on top of everything else.
A sizeable minority of parents – the ones who are the scourge of junior football matches up and down the country – need to concentrate first on their own example to their children, rather than ranting, raving, behaving ridiculously and expecting footballers – strangers – to assume responsibility.
And we need to be crystal clear: if your children are mindlessly, slavishly following and imitating the actions of footballers – through several years of indoctrination, without any intervention – you’re a bad parent.
This piece isn’t intended to be contrarian for the sake of it, nor to dismiss or belittle the several-year ordeal of Evans’ victim, which will never truly be ‘over’ now. But we set several damaging precedents for the process of justice in the UK if we overreach as far as we have with Ched Evans.
And if you really are feeling vindictive, surely you’ll want to throw Evans to the football fans on a weekly basis. The reception he’ll get every time he steps on a football pitch from now until he retires will ensure he’s never allowed to move on, nor fade quietly into anonymity.
Words: Sean Gibson
Images: Lead (Jon Candy); inset (Mattythewhite)