Kit sponsorship means the firm’s name would brush up against that of the convicted rapist — but CM Solicitors says it will not pull plug on deal if the Wales international signs on at Boundary Park
When Oldham solicitors Mark Carter and Jeremy Moore had the brainwave to become secondary shirt sponsors of the local football club, they must have celebrated an inspired bit of radical advertising with a pint down the local boozer. Mass marketing doesn’t come easy to high street law firms and football sponsorship of any kind is a rarity.
But over the last few days the founders of CM Solicitors would be forgiven for having second thoughts about plastering the practice’s logo over the top of the names of players on the Oldham Athletic strip.
Now there is a chance the firm could become indelibly linked in the eyes of local football fans with Ched Evans, the Wales international who has arguably become the most toxic name in the British game today.
Club leaders in Greater Manchester are still chewing over whether they will risk the wrath of many by signing Evans, who was recently released on probation after serving half a five-year prison term following a 2012 rape conviction. Public pressure scuppered an initial deal that would have seen Evans return to his last club, Sheffield United, and tens of thousands of people have signed an on-line petition protesting against a potential move to Oldham.
But so far, the law firm appears to be toughing out the swirling public protest. While several leading Oldham FC sponsors — Mecca Bingo and Verlin Rainwater Solutions — have publicly declared they will definitely pull the plug on their association if the club signs the striker, the lawyers are standing by the management, and potentially Evans.
We can confirm will be ending our association with @OfficialOAFC if they sign Ched Evans.
— Mecca (@MeccaBingo) January 5, 2015
In a statement issued earlier today, CM Solicitors said:
“As secondary shirt sponsors, we are obviously aware of ongoing speculation concerning the possible engagement of Ched Evans by Oldham Athletic.
“Whilst there are many difficult considerations with regards to the matter, we believe that this is solely a matter for the club and we are confident that they will make the right decision in all of the circumstances.
“Whatever the outcome we are and will remain proud sponsors of the club going forward.”
Carter and Moore — which is a crime and sports law specialist — will be hoping they don’t face the same level of unusual official pressure regarding their decision as has been applied to the club’s main shirt sponsor, Sports Direct.
Vera Baird — the former Solicitor General under the last Labour government and now Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner — has written to Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United, calling for him to walk away from his £1 million annual Oldham deal.
According to the Mail Online, Baird — who is originally from Oldham — said:
“Footballers are role models and it is wrong that Oldham Athletic are considering signing Ched Evans, who is a convicted rapist. I have a strong commitment to rehabilitation of people who have accepted their guilt and served their penalty and giving work to these people is part of that. However, Ched Evans does not seek rehabilitation from his criminality.”
Evans continues to deny his guilt and is appealing the conviction to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
CM Solicitors will doubtless be aware that the case has stimulated considerable legal profession debate. The Dublin solicitor acting for Ireland’s professional footballers’ association sparked a social media row when he penned a blog backing Evans’ bid to return to football, which is essentially the only occupation the 26-year-old has ever had.
Indeed, CM Solicitors was already today coming under Twitter pressure to drop Oldham if the club signs Evans.
— CMSolicitors (@CMSolicitors) January 5, 2015
Solicitor’s dalliance with Ched Evans debate pulled from Internet [Legal Cheek]