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1 May 2012, 09:50
Thousands of people have signed an online petition to remove Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans from an end-of-season honours list following his conviction for raping a 19-year-old woman.
The 23 year old striker, who is serving a five year jail sentence for the sex attack, was included in the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) League One team of the year.
School teacher Leo Hardt started a campaign following Evans' conviction, claiming his inclusion on the list sends out a “very troubling message”.
The petition, on the campaign website change.org, has received more than 5,000 signatures.
Mr Hardt said: “I started this campaign because my students see professional footballers as role models and take these awards, like this one from the PFA, as endorsements of their heroes.
“It's staggering that the PFA would chose to endorse a convicted rapist when there are many footballers who are better role models for our young people. I urge the PFA to remove him from the list immediately.”
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, last week defended the decision to include the Sheffield United and Wales striker in the list.
Evans was included in the team as members had already cast their votes.
Mr Taylor told Press Association Sport: “That was a football judgment by his fellow professionals, it was not a moral judgement and in no way does the PFA condone the offence for which he was convicted. If he had been removed from the team it would have created more of a storm and would have been manipulating the vote.”
Evans was jailed earlier this month after being found guilty of raping the woman in a hotel room in North Wales last May. He announced last week that he would appeal against his conviction.