Ched Evans
Ched Evans' search for a new club since his release from jail continuesGetty Images

Oldham Athletic have refused to rule out signing convicted rapist Ched Evans following a board meeting on Monday 5 January.

The Latics were reportedly ready to confirm the deal to sign the 26 year old but widespread criticism of the move, which included an online petition that attracted more than 22,000 signatures, has seen the League One club delay confirming the deal

A club statement read: "Oldham Athletic is not at this stage making any official announcement with regard to the speculation concerning Ched Evans.

"Whilst acknowledging the considerable media attention, we continue to have conversations with representative bodies such as the PFA and will conduct due diligence with regard to any decision we make on this matter.

"Although it has been reported that a press conference would be held we will officially advise if and when any such event will take place.

"The club would also request that its stakeholders and partners position and privacy be respected until this matter has been concluded. We will not be making any further comment for the time being."

Evans was released in October after serving half of the five-year sentence for raping a 19-year old woman in 2011. The Wales international has lodged an appeal with the Criminal Case Review Commission and has refused to apologise to the victim.

Reports on Sunday 4 January claimed Oldham were the front-runners to sign Evans, after both Sheffield United and Hartlepool United denied they were interested in the forward, and Professional Footballers' Association chairman Gordon Taylor confirmed the player would be unveiled on Monday.

But a backlash from supporters, over 22,000 of which have signed the online petition calling for chairman Simon Corney to pull the plug on the deal, saw the club hold the board meeting to debate the potential signing.

Those talks will have included the impact the signing of Evans on the club's sponsors, with Verlin Rainwater Solutions and Mecca Bingo having confirmed they would withdraw their support of the club should the deal go through. Principal sponsors Sports Direct have yet to comment.