Two police and crime commissioners (PCCs) have urged a football club not to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans - despite several charities committed to rehabilitating offenders saying the striker should be given a second chance.
Greater Manchester's PCC Tony Lloyd (pictured) and Northumbria's Vera Baird condemned Evans' "lack of remorse".
Ms Baird, who wrote an open letter urging Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley to scrap his sponsorship of Oldham Athletic if the club signs Evans (26), said the footballer's continual claims of his innocence meant he "does not seek rehabilitation".
Mr Lloyd said: “Ched Evans is a convicted rapist and, whilst I strongly believe in the principle of rehabilitation, it will send out entirely the wrong message if they offer him a contract.
“All offenders have the right to rebuild their lives and make amends after they have served their sentence, but Ched Evans’ lack of remorse and failure to acknowledge his offence means it is simply inappropriate for him to be on a Greater Manchester football pitch week in and week out presenting himself as some kind of role model, especially to young people.”
Evans was released on licence after serving two years of his five year prison sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in 2011.
He has always claimed the sex was consensual - but a judge at Evans' trial said the woman had been too intoxicated to give consent.
He is attempting to have his conviction quashed, and the Criminal Cases Review Commission is investigating.
Tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition urging Oldham Athletic not to sign him.
However, Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, told PoliceOracle.com it was time people took "a step back", adding that the focus on a single individual was distracting from broader issues about sexism in football.
Mr Garside said: "Whether police and crime commissioners should be getting involved is a moot point really.
"They are public figures and they are entitled to express their view, but we need everybody to in a sense take a step back a bit to allow Ched Evans as much as he can to get on with his life.
"I very much hope he will find it within himself to express contrition and remorse. It doesn't seem very likely at the moment, but in time perhaps he will.
"If people don't take a step back all we are doing is digging ever deeper trenches so either you are for Ched Evans or you are against Ched Evans. It's not all about Ched Evans. He's one individual."
He added: "The focus on one individual is taking away from the broader challenges - unless the argument is that Ched Evans is the only footballer who has ever engaged in activities which people disapprove of. We need to recognise there is a broader issue here.
"My own view is that it will be progress when we are only reading about Ched Evans on the back pages of newspapers rather than the front pages of them… Part of moving on is Ched Evans being consigned to the back pages."
Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "It is an important principle of our justice system that once someone has served their sentence they should have the opportunity to lead a law abiding life.
"Whilst this is a high-profile, atypical case and a very serious offence, it highlights the lasting mark a prison sentence can have on people. Employment opportunities are restricted, homes and tenancies may have been lost and relationships may have broken down, yet these are the very things that matter the most in stopping people from committing further offences."
Mark Johnson, an ex-offender who founded national criminal justice charity User Voice, has also suggested Evans should be allowed to play football professionally if a club wants to sign him.
Several high profile sponsors have already said they will cut their ties with Oldham Athletic if the club, which is still considering its next move, decides to sign Evans.