SHEFFIELD UNITED’S trip to Chesterfield was billed by some in the media as The Ched Evans Show. It wasn’t and most football fans with an interest didn't expect it to be.
But it served as a reminder of one of the most disgraceful pieces of ‘journalism’ you are ever likely to come across in a respected British national newspaper. Re-reading a blatant attempt to slur Sheffield United fans in a double-page spread which appeared in the Daily Mail four-and-a-half years ago still takes the breath away.
The article accurately reflects evidence heard at Caernarfon Crown Court where Evans was convicted of rape in his original trial in 2012. A conviction that has since been quashed on appeal. Evans was found not guilty in a retrial. But reporter Paul Bracchi pre-empts what he claimed would be "shameful" scenes at Bramall Lane. Scenes that never happened.
A piece of fiction concocted by Bracchi to give what by then was a well-worn story a new angle and an opportunity for a sensational headline. He and the Daily Mail should be ashamed. It is the very definition of ‘post-truth’ just announced as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries. Judge for yourself from extracts further below.
Most of those in Bracchi’s trade have professional pride and The Times’ Gregor Robertson is one of them. Sheffield United’s visit to the Proact Stadium last Sunday was the first time 27-year-old striker Evans had rubbed shoulders with his former club since they cancelled his contract in 2012 following conviction for rape and a five-year jail sentence.
Well not quite. He was invited, briefly, to train with the Blades in 2014 following his release from prison after having served half of his sentence behind bars. A move which divided United supporters, sparked outrage across Britain and dominated national news headlines for a month.
After Evans’ conviction was quashed on appeal and a retrial ordered he signed a one-year deal with Chesterfield in the summer after just over four years out of the game.
Robertson in the Press box last Sunday did what the majority of self respecting journalists do, accurately report the facts. “It was a little startling, if not entirely unpredictable, perhaps, wrote Robertson. "There were no jeers, no boos; no songs of an unsavoury nature. No howls in the direction of a footballer whose name has been stained forever. Then in the 66th minute of the match, Ched Evans – after setting up Chesterfield’s first goal in seven league matches, and coming close to scoring on more than one occasion himself – hobbled off the pitch to a standing ovation from all corners of Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium. The sound of ’Super Cheddy Evans’ in chorus from Sheffield United supporters he once ran to in goalscoring celebration, rang loudly in his ears.
“It will undoubtedly have been a moment of relief for Evans, coming in his first appearance for his former club. The ‘moral baggage’ he will always carry, as one fan put it before the match, may be unquestionable. But he is now an innocent man and the overwhelming feeling among those in attendance yesterday was that this talented footballer should now simply be allowed to get on with his career.”
Contrast that with this piece of sensationalist garbage written by Bracchi in the Daily Mail, a paper which took leave of its senses, not forgetting basic journalistic standards. Remember, none of what you are about to read actually happened at Bramall Lane. Nor was there any suggestion of it. I know. Like most of you I was one of the 30,043 paying customers on April 28, 2012.
Applause for a rapist: How fans of jailed footballer Ched Evans are planning grotesque show of support on live TV at match today
By Paul Bracchi for the Daily Mail
Ched Evans will be remembered at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground this afternoon with a round of applause in the ninth minute of the televised home game, and in the 35th minute.
Why, at those precise moments? Well, Evans wore the coveted number 9 shirt for United and had scored 35 goals for them over the past season. The Welsh international was their star striker, the Wayne Rooney of the team.
Terrace tributes such as staged clapping are normally reserved for giants of the game — great players or managers — who have recently passed away. Ched Evans, for those who may not follow our national sport, has not ‘passed away’, even though we have been referring to him in the past tense. In fact, he’s being detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure at Altcourse Prison in Liverpool, where he is beginning a five-year sentence following his conviction for rape last week.
The brief, disturbing details are these: The intoxicated victim — who could barely stand up — was initially picked up on a street corner by Evans’s friend, another footballer, who took her back to his hotel for sex before passing her onto Evans.
In other words, the 19-year-old young woman was ‘roasted’ (the term footballers use for group sex) and raped while Evans’s brother and a mate tried to film proceedings on a mobile phone from a window outside the ground-floor room. Two predatory footballers, then, one teenage girl, and a pair of voyeurs.
Even so, in the eyes of many supporters, the real victim is Evans himself, not to mention their ‘beloved’ Sheffield United, which has been deprived of his services as the side close in on promotion from League One.
So, shortly after kick-off at 5.20pm, a convicted rapist could be lauded at a British football stadium in front of a vast television audience. The planned tribute has been widely debated on fans’ forums over the past few days.
One message reads: ‘I have been asked to post here on behalf of a Blade (the nickname for Sheffield United fans) who wants as many Blades as possible to give their support for our Ched (live on TV). The match — against Stevenage — is being broadcast on Sky.’
It is only the latest shocking revelation in this still unfolding story.
Bracchi then goes on to detail proceedings at Caernarfon Crown Court and concludes:
The story is already a shameful one. But perhaps the most shameful episode is still to unfold — at around 5.30pm in Sheffield this afternoon.
It didn't and their was no apology from the Daily Mail for this unfounded slur. Shameful indeed.