Cheers for a rapist: Ched Evans fans planning grotesque show of support as Sheffield United play live on TV
Jailed Sheffield United player will be honoured during game this afternoon
Staged clapping, normally reserved for late legends, will be held twice
09:01 GMT, 28 April 2012
09:01 GMT, 28 April 2012
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 No 9 shirt for United and had scored 35 goals for them over the past season. The Wales 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.
Standing by her man: Despite being jailed for raping a teenager, Ched Evans is being supported by his girlfriend Natasha Massey, who has kept this picture of the couple on her Twitter account
Distasteful: Evans celebrates after scoring at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane, where he will be remembered at a game this afternoon with rounds of applause in the ninth and 35th minutes
Ched Evans 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.
Going places: Evans, pictured with Miss Massey admiring a rare 1972 Ferrari, had been tipped to join a Premiership club next season and was in the running to represent Team GB at this summer's Olympics
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 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.
Tensions: Although supportive, it emerged during the trial that Miss Massey hated Evans going out because 'girls throw themselves at you'
‘Drunken slag’, ‘tramp’, ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ are just some of the things the teenager at the centre of the case has been called in a vile internet campaign waged against her.
In the process, even though victims of serious sexual offences are granted lifelong anonymity by the courts, her identity was revealed on social networking site Twitter.
Maybe the culprits weren’t aware of the anonymity law or, more likely, given the ferocity of the personal abuse, they just didn’t care.
Either way, three of the men who allegedly named her (there are literally dozens who did so) have now been arrested.
This disgraceful chain of events, precipitated by Evans’s ignominious downfall, tells us as much about the kind of society we have become as the original crime for which the striker was found guilty at Caernarfon Crown Court.
So how did Evans end up in the dock The reason — or, at least an explanation for his behaviour — emerged after he was arrested last year.
He claimed (predictably) that the young woman had consented to sex, telling detectives: ‘We could have had any girl we wanted [in the North Wales nightclub where they had spent the evening].
‘We are footballers, that’s how it is. Footballers are rich, they have got money, that’s what girls like.’
Could there be a more sickening illustration of the reckless arrogance that seems to be in the DNA of many modern footballers It is often the flip side of wealth and celebrity, particularly when it arrives at such a young age.
Evans is from a working-class background in North Wales; his father left home when he was born. Football was the only thing he really knew.
Now just 23, he was earning a cool 20,000 a week at Sheffield United. He drove a Mercedes and a 4×4 Land Rover Defender with personalised number plates bearing his initials CME: Chedwyn Michael Evans.
He had been tipped to join a Premier League club next season and was in the running to represent Team GB at this summer’s Olympics.
High life: Aged just 23, Evans (above) was earning a cool 20,000 a week at Sheffield United and drove a Mercedes and a Land Rover with personalised number plates bearing his initials CME: Chedwyn Michael Evans
He had been leading a glamorous lifestyle with his girlfriend Natasha Massey, 24, a member of the ‘Cheshire Set’, the nouveau riche inhabitants of the ‘golden triangle’ of Wilmslow, Prestbury and Alderley Edge that include soap stars and footballers.
Her father, Karl Massey, is a director of 11 companies, including jewellers Cottrills in Wilmslow. The family home is a 1.5 million property in Alderley Edge, close to the homes of Manchester United stars Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra.
Evans and Miss Massey, who have been dating for two years, were recently pictured together at a ‘Rolex Dinner’ staged by Cotterills, described as ‘an evening of fine dining, fine wines and a tasting of the very best Dom Perignon vintages’.
Astonishingly, Miss Massey and her parents are standing by Evans. This is apparent from a photograph on Miss Massey’s Twitter page, which many women in her position might have hastily removed in the light of what happened.
It shows her holding hands with Evans during a romantic restaurant meal. Underneath, Miss Massey has written gushingly: ‘I have the best family, amazing friends and a gorgeous boyfriend. I’m VERY lucky.’
Evans had been leading a glamorous lifestyle
with his girlfriend Natasha Massey, 24, a member of the ‘Cheshire Set’,
the nouveau riche inhabitants of the ‘golden triangle’ of Wilmslow,
Prestbury and Alderley Edge that include soap stars and footballers
But away from the chic ‘Cheshire Set’ dinner parties, Evans led a very different life. Miss Massey, it emerged during the trial, hated Evans going out because ‘girls throw themselves at you’.
That didn’t stop him, though. As he told police, he was a footballer, he could have anyone he wanted. On any given night of the week, at bars across the country, there is an almost endless supply of women available to the likes of Ched Evans.
It is a world epitomised perhaps by the favourite drink at one Manchester club called Gold Digger — a cocktail named in honour of the girls who flock there hoping to snare a footballer.
The scene of the rape, though, was not a big city but the North Wales seaside town of Rhyl, where Evans grew up and where his mother still lives.
On the weekend of May 29 last year, Evans returned to his home town for the Bank Holiday with his friend Clayton McDonald, a defender with Port Vale.
The two had been friends since they were juniors in the Manchester City Youth Academy. They had also been on holiday to Miami and Ayia Napa in Cyprus.
The pair had something else in common, too: they once had a ‘threesome’ (Evans’s word) when they lived together early in their footballing careers.
Old habits die hard, it seems. Evans, it was alleged in court, had booked a room at the local Premier Inn ‘for the sole purpose of procuring a girl or girls’ during their visit to Rhyl.
Targeted: The girl raped by Evans (pictured left playing for Wales) has also become the victim of a vile internet campaign calling her a 'drunken slag', 'tramp' and 'whore' among other names
They ended up at the Zu bar, but left at different times. Some time before 4am, Clayton McDonald encountered a girl outside a kebab shop in the town’s Queen Street.
She was ‘stumbling’ and ‘slurring’. Hardly surprising in the circumstances. She had drunk two large glasses of wine in just over an hour, along with four double vodkas and a Sambuca. ‘Hi, where are you going’ McDonald asked her. ‘Where are you going’ she replied.’
‘I’m going to my hotel,’ he said. ‘I’m coming with you,’ she told him.
You’d like to think that most men would have resisted the temptation to take a young women in such a state back to their hotel room.
Instead, McDonald got into a taxi with her, then immediately sent Evans a text message.
‘I’ve got a girl,’ he told him. About 15 minutes later, Evans turned up at the hotel.
Guilty: Ched Evans pictured outside Caernafon Crown Court, where he was jailed for five years last week
He was followed by his brother Ryan, 19, a student at Swansea University, and another local lad, Jack Higgins. They remained outside by the window. Police later found blurred video recordings on Higgins’s mobile phone of the ‘sexual activity which was taking place within the room’.
Group sex, it seems, has become acceptable behaviour among some footballers. The sickening culture dates back many years.
The most notorious recent example occurred at Manchester United’s Christmas party in 2007 when up to 100 girls from across the city were bussed to a local hotel.
A witness recalled hearing clapping and cheering from one of the rooms where five or six men were with a girl. The men were heard ‘shrieking like hyenas’ and shouting ‘get in there’.
That infamous night also ended in an allegation of rape against Manchester United defender Jonny Evans. He was arrested, but did not face charges.
Back at the Premier Inn in Rhyl the following morning, the girl woke up alone in a bed. Her clothes were scattered around the floor.
By then, Ched Evans and Clayton McDonald had long gone. McDonald left through the front door, Evans via a fire exit.
Following his arrest, Evans told police that his friend had asked the girl: ‘Can my mate join in’ She had said “yes” straight away, Evans claimed. The jury did not believe him.
McDonald, however, was cleared of rape. His barrister said his client ‘may have behaved in a manner you may find morally repugnant, but it didn’t make him guilty of rape’.
We can only assume that, despite her intoxicated state, the girl’s decision to go back to the hotel constituted consent in the eyes of the jury.
Within hours of the verdict, an internet backlash against the rape victim had begun. Her name was being circulated so widely that it is understood to have been one of the words ‘trending’ (meaning it was one of the most widely used) on Twitter.
A number of footballers joined the campaign, including a team-mate of Ched Evans, who has now been suspended by Sheffield United.
The victim is currently ‘on leave’ from her job.
‘She does not want to speak to the media,’ her sister told us when we contacted the family. ‘She is trying to get on with her life and put all this behind her. It has been a terrible time.’
A friend added: ‘People are slagging her off on the internet and it’s terrifying her. She has become a hate figure. And it’s so unfair when you think about what the poor girl has been through.
‘She was raped and then she had to go through the ordeal of the legal process, which felt like she was being raped all over again.
‘If that wasn’t traumatic enough, she has also been identified. She just wants to get away from here now and rebuild her life.’
The story is already a shameful one. But the perhaps the most shameful episode is still to unfold — at around 5.30pm in Sheffield this afternoon.