Ched Evans petition: Sheffield United urged not to re-employ rape footballer
More than 60,000 people have signed a petition calling on Sheffield United not to re-employ disgraced footballer Ched Evans.
Evans, 25, was convicted of rape in April 2012 and jailed for five years. He is due to be released in October.
The Blades have refused to comment on a possible return for the striker they signed for £3m in 2009.
However, Alan Smith from the official Sheffield United supporters' club said: "I've been told he will be back."'Really appalling'
He added: "I think that for most supporters it's good he's coming back because of what he did for us before. I think that he's served his time."
End Quote Natasha Massey Girlfriend of Ched Evans
Ched would love to play for Sheffield again. He loved his time there”
However, Nicky, who is among the signatories to the petition, told BBC Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire: "I appreciate he's done his time in prison but there's an argument about rehabilitation and many of us who have signed the petition do not feel Ched has been rehabilitated."
She added: "He continues to protest his innocence and for him to walk back into a high-profile job where he's seen as a role model as if nothing has happened is just really appalling."
Nacro, the crime reduction charity, said gainful employment was critical in helping people put their criminal past behind them.
Graham Beech, director of strategic development at the charity, said: "It is the police, probation and other relevant agencies' responsibility to protect the public and it is the employer's responsibility to assess any risks that are involved in employing the individual. Both need to put appropriate safeguards in place.
"This includes the risk of harm to employees and the general public and any business and reputational risks to the employer no matter how high profile that job or that employment may be."
Evans, a Wales international, denied raping the 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, in north Wales, but was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.
He has tried to have his conviction overturned and, in July, asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission to examine the case.
The footballer's girlfriend, Natasha Massey, told BBC Radio 5 live: "Ched will forever maintain his innocence and we will continue to appeal.
"Anyone who is released from prison, part of their rehabilitation is to return to work.
"Ched's work so happens to be a professional footballer so I think he should be allowed to return to his job.
"Ched would love to play for Sheffield again. He loved his time there."
Evans scored 42 goals in his 103 appearances for Sheffield United, who are among the favourites to gain promotion to the Championship this season.