On Monday, Oldham Athletic confirmed they were considering signing convicted rapist Ched Evans and would consult with stakeholders and supporters over the addition of the highly controversial Wales international.
Since being released from prison in October – mid-way through his five-year sentence - Evans' attempt to resume his football career has become the most documented story in domestic sport and yet is no closer to being resolved.
As the Latics take their time to consider the advantages and the pitfalls of entering into an association with Evans, IBTimes UK looks at all that has transpired since the striker was imprisoned in 2012 and why he might yet be foiled in his attempts to return to football.
Why is Evans' case different?
Joey Barton, Eric Cantona, Lee Hughes, Marlon King and Dennis Wise are just some of the footballers to have been imprisoned and then released, free to continue their football career, but why has Evans' case garnered special attention?
The heinous crime, the raping of a 19-year-old girl, and the details which accompany the case have certainly attracted attention, to say the least. As has the pursuit of his victim, who has been forced to seek a new identity on five different occasions after being named on social media.
A website, endorsed by Evans, leads the campaign for the quashing of his conviction and makes accusations against the victim. Above all else, with Evans taking his case to the Criminal Case Review Commission, the player's unrepentant stance and failure to apologise means his right to return to work has been overlooked.
As far as being a regular member of society goes, with a rehabilitation process in place allowing a convicted criminal to reintegrate him or herself, Evans has every right to continue his football career. However, with players and clubs acting a role models to youngsters and many of them in the public eye, special circumstances surround the case of Evans.
Will football take him back?
After being released two-and-a-half years into his five-year sentence, former club Sheffield United offered Evans the chance to train with the club, under guidance from the Professional Footballers' Association. Though the Blades did not commit to signing the player, the moral dilemma quickly turned into a public relations backlash.
Supporters set up a petition for the offer to be retracted, which attracted over 160,000 signatures. Influential sponsors, patrons and Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill – who threatened to remove her name from one of the stands at Bramall Lane –all joined the criticism. The offer was later withdrawn.
Tranmere Rovers and Oldham joined the list of clubs distancing themselves from Evans before Hartlepool United boss Ronnie Moore unwittingly said he would consider signing the forward. The club later clarified they had no intention of making the deal a reality.
A month after ruling out a move for Evans, Oldham – who signed Lee Hughes after his release from prison for manslaughter – were linked with a move for the unattached striker and were set to unveil the player on Monday after talks with PFA chief Gordon Taylor.
Disapproval again followed the reports, leading to a board meeting on Monday morning where the decision to consult further with stakeholders and fans was taken. Sponsors have already threatened to withdraw their support for the club should Evans join, while nearly 50,000 people have signed a petition urging Oldham to pull out of the move.
What hope does Evans have left?
An investigation from Sky Sports found that none of the clubs in either League One or Two would consider signing Evans at the present time. Given the man in question is an unapologetic, convicted rapist, clubs across the football league are unlikely to risk the PR storm which is now likely to accompany every potential move, not least contemplate compromising their morals. A switch abroad has also been ruled out by the Ministry of Justice after Maltese side Hibernians claimed interest in signing the player.
With the influence of sponsors and supporters down the lower echelons of the football pyramid key to the functioning and financing of each and every club, in his current state Evans is highly unlikely to ever be allowed to resume his professional career. The former Manchester City player's only hope lies in his appeal against his conviction, which will be fast tracked in 2015 and could yet see his name cleared, but even then the attention his story has gathered makes him damaged goods.