Ched Evans and the TUC

I’m not a football fan. I am a trade unionist.

The Professional Footballers’ Association is the world’s oldest professional sport trade union. it is affiliated with the Trades Union Congress and the federation for specialist unions, the GFTU: internationally with the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels, aka the World Players’ Union.

Ched Evans, who played for Sheffield United F.C. was a member of the PFA. (Whether he still is, I don’t know.)

On 29th May 2011, Clayton McDonald, who plays for Port Vale F.C., met a 19-year-old woman casually, took her back to his hotel room for the night, they had sex. Clayton McDonald texted his friend Ched Evans that he had “got a bird”, and Ched Evans went to the hotel room, watched the woman and Clayton have sex, and then raped her.

For which crime he has been jailed for five years.

No one could blame a trade union for having a member who is a convicted rapist.

The problem for the PFA as a trade union, affiliated with the TUC, is that the TUC takes a very strong line against gender violence.

The TUC believes that violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of women’s inequality, that it has a serious impact on mental and physical health and is costly to the state and to the community in terms of criminal justice, health and other resources. Whether it is physical, psychological or sexual and whether it occurs in the home, in the workplace or within the wider community, violence devastates women’s life chances around the world. The TUC believes that gender based violence is a trade union priority and works to eliminate it both in the UK and internationally.

Ched Evans has been voted by PFA members on to the League One “Team of the Year”. He was shortlisted for the award in January 2012, while awaiting trial for rape, and the other trade union members in the League One division awarded him the honour – announced 22nd April, two days after Ched Evans had been convicted of rape.

The PFA is a very successful trade union which has done excellent work in improving the wages and working conditions of their members. The TUC is an active member of End Violence Against Women and both the TUC and the PFA support the work of the White Ribbon Campaign, which works with football clubs to highlight the need to eliminate male violence against women.

The “Team of the Year” award is apparently regarded as the “highest accolade in the league“, given by fellow trade union members to one of their own. In this case, to a convicted rapist.

So what are the chair and the CEO of the trade union doing with this problem? As an affiliate member of the TUC, the PFA is supposed to be against violence against women, not granting accolades to rapists.

Chief executive of the trade union, Gordon Taylor, said: “That was a football judgement by his fellow professionals, it was not a moral judgement. If he had been removed, it would have created more of a storm.”

Chair of the trade union Clarke Carlisle said: “It was a democratic vote on professional ability, not a moral decision. Some things in life are a shade of grey. Separating professional and personal behaviour is one of them. It was (and is) a very tough and delicate stand point!”

So apparently, while happy to get the benefits of trade union membership, they’re not willing to take on the responsibilities of trade union membership?

A couple of months ago, the TUC wrote to its membership:

As we approach 8th March, International Women’s Day, we’re calling on the UK government to take a stand on violence against women and girls – A global problem that shows no sign of going away.

In May this year, the Council of Europe opened a new convention to combat violence against women and domestic violence. It has been signed by 17 countries now, but the UK isn’t one of them.

The convention (called the Istanbul Convention) seeks to make sure countries are working towards a new minimum standard on violence against women. This would include; making sure they had a proper framework for protecting and assisting victims, promoting equality between women and men, and supporting law enforcement and international co-operation on eliminating violence against women.

It’s evident that trade union members like Connor Brown and some football fans are part of the problem that the TUC, and its affiliates, are supposed to be against.

Amanda Bancroft wrote on 23rd April:

Almost immediately, the #ChedEvans hashtag appeared on Twitter, and later, #JusticeForChed. Some tweets questioned why one defendant was found guilty and the other not. Others blamed the victim, particularly focusing on her being drunk; some could only be described as vile. Tweeters included fellow Sheffield United footballer Connor Brown who has since deleted his attack on the victim, which included calling her a slag, and which intimated she made her complaint for financial reasons.

Rape culture, which includes victim blaming, sexual objectification and trivialising rape, was demonstrably alive and well on both hashtags, and continued all weekend.

By early Sunday, the name of the woman who was apparently the complainant was being widely tweeted, it first having been seen on Friday. The insults became more personal, and the levels of abuse directed at the victim increased throughout the day.

Taking action against violence against women. It shouldn’t just be rhetoric. For trade union members, it should mean action, not accolades for a rapist.

There is a petition at Change.org asking the Professional Football Association to drop Ched Evans from the “Team of the Year“. I haven’t signed it because I think it’s too mild. The PFA have made a commitment as a trade union to take action against promoting rape culture. They should live up to it.


Update: Mumsnet:

Mumsnet, will you use the voice you have against this horrible hate campaign? Will you tell the woman that Ched Evans raped, that We Believe Her? Will you ask the FA to state publicly, that they too, believe her and that in future, they will work as hard to kick sexism out of football, as they do to kick racism out?

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