Taylor sorry for Hillsborough remark

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PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor. Pic © BBC

PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor. Pic © BBC

The Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has apologised for comments he made comparing the case of convicted rapist Ched Evans to the Hillsborough disaster.

Gordon Taylor’s apology came a day after he likened Evans’ situation to that of the families of the 1989 tragedy in which 96 people were crushed to death at the Sheffield stadium.

Evans, a former Sheffield United striker, was jailed in April 2012 for after being found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman and is struggling to find a new club following his release from prison in October after serving half of a five-year sentence. He has maintained his innocence and is seeking to have his conviction overturned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live on Thursday evening, Taylor used Hillsborough as an example of when the justice system and the police had got things wrong.

He said: “If we are talking about things in football, we know what happened, what was alleged to have happened at Hillsborough. And it’s now unravelling and we are finding it was very different to how it was portrayed at the time — indeed by the police at the time.”

Taylor’s comments were immediately condemned by the families of Hillsborough, with Barry Devonside – whose 18-year-old son Christopher died at Hillsborough – saying it is “an absolute disgrace” that Taylor would make such a comparison.

On Friday morning, Taylor told talkSPORT that he had not intended to cause any offence and apologised.

Taylor said: “I was asked about the fact that he maintains his innocence and I said he is entitled to do that, there is a criminal cases review board, and it wouldn’t be the first time that a criminal case conviction has been overturned.

“At the moment, of course, Hillsborough is still very much on our mind. You can recall the vilification of Liverpool fans by sections of police, MPs, and sections of the media and how much I have admired their battle to establish the truth. And the Ched Evans case, albeit different, is still about his right to maintain his innocence and take it forward.

Hillsborough memorial at Anfield. Pic by Ida Husøy

Hillsborough memorial at Anfield. Pic by Ida Husøy

“There is a campaign that he shouldn’t return to his profession when the rule of law says he is entitled to.

“If any of the Hillsborough family support group are offended, I am extremely sorry for that and I apologise for that, but I hope they understand the point I was trying to make, with the perception of the public and how it is a similar case with Ched Evans, the incidents being different of course.”

Margaret Aspinall, chairman of Hillsborough Family Support Group, told the Liverpool Echo that she found Taylor’s comments offensive but it was wrong to call for his resignation.

She said: “I accept his apology and I think it’s ridiculous for everybody to ask for his resignation. He phrased his wording wrong.

“There is no comparison and I did find it offensive because you cannot compare what we went through with Ched Evans. I don’t think he meant it, I think he didn’t put his brain into gear.

“He’s apologised now and I think we should leave it at that.”

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