ched evans
A Change.org petition urges Sheffield United not to re-sign convicted rapist Ched EvansGetty

Sheffield United has denied reports it has offered a contract to disgraced footballer Ched Evans.

Evans, 25, left Wymott Prison in Lancashire in the early hours of Friday morning, after serving half of his five-year sentence for the rape of a 19-year-old woman in 2011.

The Welsh international admitted having sex with the unnamed woman, who told the jury she had no memory of the incident. The prosecution said his victim was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.

The Sun reported that Sheffield United have now offered Evans a two-year, £5,000 a week contract and claim he could be back training as soon as next week.

The club's co-chairmen, Kevin McCabe and Jim Phipps, have released a joint statement condemning the reports in the media suggesting they had re-issued a contract to the convicted sports star.

"An article in The Sun today that Sheffield United has offered a contract to former player Ched Evans is false and damaging to the club," they said. "We have made a statement on this matter previously and the lack of credibility and substance from this latest media report does not warrant any expansion from previous comments apart from noting that we are continuing to deliberate on any long-term decision about Ched Evans."

More than 150,000 people have signed an online petition at a Change.org urging Sheffield United not to re-sign the convicted rapist Ched Evans. Many fans called on the club to take a tough stance, and vowed never to watch Evans play for the League One team if he rejoins the club.

Sheffield United Community Foundation patron Charlie Webster said if Evans re-signed for the club she would be "heartbroken" and "disappointed".

"It would send out the wrong message to the next generation to watch Ched Evans score a goal and cheer him on as a hero," she said.

Evans returned to his home town of Rhyl, north Wales, where he is widely regarded as a local hero, for a reunion party with his family, friends and girlfriend Natasha Massey. The striker has consistently denied he raped the woman.

The footballer's more ardent fans are standing by him, encouraged by an elaborate media campaign to clear his name. A website, bankrolled by his millionaire father, has been launched claiming that Evans was wrongly convicted of rape. The site has had 100,000 hits.

A statement posted on the website says: "Chedwyn Evans maintains his absolute innocence and his family, friends and many who know the true facts of the case believe that his conviction was a gross miscarriage of justice."

Meanwhile, the victim has been forced to change her identity and leave her home after her name was revealed on the internet. She was named by more than 6,000 people, including members of Evans' family, on Twitter. She was subsequently subjected to abuse from fans of the football star, described by a police officer as "psychologically GBH."

"She has been relocated and given a new identity by the police due to the animosity directed at her," a spokesman for the North Wales force confirmed this week.