ched evans
Ched Evans was found guilty of raping a woman in north Wales in 2011Getty

The Professional Footballer's Association of Ireland has defended convicted rapist Ched Evans, saying he deserves a chance of redemption just like the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six.

The association's solicitor Stuart Gilhooly described the crime committed by Evans as "alleged" despite the fact he was convicted of the offence following a trial in April 2012.

The Welsh international was recently released from prison after serving two and a half years of a five-year sentence for raping a woman at a hotel near Rhyl, north Wales, in May 2011.

His former club Sheffield United have received a huge amount of backlash for offering Evans the chance to train at the club to regain his fitness, as he attempts to return to professional football.

Four patrons of the club resigned because of the decision and Olympic Gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill said she will force her name to be removed from the stand named after her at Bramhall Lane if the club offers Evans a new contract.

Sponsors DBL Logistics and John Holland Sales Ltd have also threatened to cancel their deals with the club if they decide to sign the striker again.

Gilhooly said Evans deserves the chance of redemption as the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six – two groups of men who were convicted of two separate bomb attacks before the decisions were later quashed – received "no sympathy either".

He said: "There is little point in trying to dissect the legal niceties of this very complex issue but suffice to say that Ched Evans has a very arguable case that he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

"If having sex with a drunk woman is rape, then thousands of men are guilty of rape every day. The simple point is that degrees of intoxication are a very difficult concept for young men to grapple with when they themselves have had plenty to drink."

He added: "This crime, as alleged, was at the bottom end. There was no violence and thankfully the victim has no recollection of it. This, I hasten to add, does not make it right, or anything close to it, but it is nonetheless a mitigating factor.

"It's not easy to muster up too much sympathy for Evans but there is surely nothing worse than being accused of a crime which you genuinely believe you didn't commit.

"The argument against that is that a jury convicted him of the crime. The same applied to the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. They got no public sympathy either.

"Maybe he is guilty or perhaps he's innocent, none of us knows for sure. Surely, either way, he deserves a chance at redemption. Don't we all?"

The article appeared following former Housemartins and Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton's decision to resign from his role as patron of the Sheffield United Community Foundation, adding the club now needs to "lift its reputation out of the gutter".

TV presenter Charlie Webster, 60s pop star Dave Berry and health expert Lindsay Graham all quit their patron roles in protest at Sheffield United's handling of Evans.