Footballer Ched Evans has won his appeal against his rape conviction but must face a retrial after new evidence emerged. The former Sheffield United star served two and a half years of a five-year sentence after been found guilty of raping a woman at a hotel near Rhyl, north Wales, in May 2011.

His case was heard by the Court of Appeal after it was referred to by the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) following information that the CCRC said "raises a real possibility" his conviction could be quashed.

Evans has always maintained his innocence and issued a statement via YouTube in which he vowed to clear his name and even hoped to return to professional football.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Flaux and Sir David Maddison had three options to consider following the referral: reject Evans' appeal; quash his rape conviction; or order a retrial. Evans will now stand trial accused of raping the woman at the hotel in north Wales at a later date.

Justice Hallett said: "We have concluded that we must allow the appeal and that it is in the interests of justice to order a re-trial. Nothing can be reported that might prejudice the fairness of that re-trial. That means the contents of this statement may be reported and broadcast, in full, but nothing more about the appeal proceedings may be reported until the re-trial is concluded. The identity of the complainant in this case must not be reported."

In a statement released via his website, Evans' family said: "Ched would like to thank all of his family, friends, legal team and football supporters from around the country especially those of Sheffield United for their support, encouragement and belief. Today's decision and the whole process could not have been possible without the unconditional love, belief and support of Natasha and both families. However, there are no winners and no celebration.

"Finally, Ched would like to place on record his thanks to the judiciary for carrying out a detailed process, repaying his faith in the legal system and confirming that Ched was correct in maintaining his innocence from day one."

In 2014, following his release from prison, Sheffield United allowed him to train at the club to help regain his fitness with an eye to eventually signing for a club, causing outrage among many.

The decision resulted in several high profile names including former Housemartins and Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton and 60s pop star Dave Berry quitting their roles as patrons of the club in protest of the handling of the Evans affair.

Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill also said she would force the removal of her name from the stand named after her at the club's ground, Bramall Lane, if the Welsh international is offered a new contract.

Evans has not played professional football since his release from prison.