“Enormous pressure from sponsors” has been cited as one of the reasons behind Oldham Athletic cancelling their deal to sign striker convicted rapist Ched Evans. There have also been threats to the club’s “staff and their families”.
Verlin Rainwater Solution – which sponsors a stand at Oldham’s Boundary Park – withdrew their support for the club following the news the club were looking to sign Evans. Company director Craig Verling said:
“After receiving the news regarding the imminent signing of Ched Evans it is with great regret that Verlin Rainwater Solutions will no longer be associated with Oldham Athletic.
We would like to take this opportunity to make clear that we feel that Mr Evans should be able to lead a life without further punishment after serving his sentence, although our feelings remain the same that this should not be within the public domain where his previous behaviour may influence the next generation.
“We sincerely wish the club a very successful future and have no regrets about being associated with Oldham Athletic over the past few seasons, but feel our continued support would be sending out the wrong message.”
A second sponsor, ZenOffice, threatened to end its five year association with the club if the move went ahead by releasing the following statement:
“ZenOffice have always believed that in order to be a successful business we need to give something back to the community. We have strong background in supporting local, community, family based initiatives in the North West.
ZenOffice have been sponsors of Oldham Athletic Football Club for five years. This partnership has been based on mutual respect as OAFC did share the same values as ZenOffice, based on family and community.
“ZenOffice do not agree that the current path OAFC are embarking on espouses these values.
“Therefore it is with much regret, that ZenOffice would like to confirm that we will end our association with Oldham Athletic Football Club if the move goes ahead to sign Ched Evans.”
Club sponsors had been told yesterday to prepare for confirmation of the Welsh striker’s signing, which then prompted Nando’s to release the following tweet:
RE Oldham signing: we’d have liked to continue our involvement with fan prizes at matches but feel we can no longer continue our association
— Nando’s (@NandosUK) January 7, 2015
The news isn’t entirely unexpected, as a series of petitions against clubs looking to sign Evans have amassed over 230,000 signatures so far. The Welsh international was jailed in April 2012 for raping a woman before being released in October 2014 after serving half of his five-year sentence. Oldham are the second club to reverse their decision to sign Evans. He continues to protest his innocence, and the Criminal Cases Review Commission are investigating his conviction.
Sponsors are increasingly having influence over the decisions made by teams, in this case with two companies claiming the signing of Evans would go against their brand values and withdrawing their much-needed financial support. This time last year West Brom shirt sponsors Zoopla were quick to distance themselves from Nicolas Anelka’s “quenelle” gesture by not renewing their sponsorship. Emirates also pulled their sponsorship of FIFA in 2014 when accusations of corruption were levelled against the organisation.