- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2016

CHESTERFIELD, England (AP) - A British soccer player awaiting a retrial after his conviction for rape was overturned has signed a one-year contract with a third-tier English club.

Chesterfield announced the signing of Ched Evans on Monday, with chairman Dave Allen saying the club has “given a great deal of thought to this signing” and that the striker “should be welcomed back into his profession as a professional footballer.”

Evans, who is Welsh, was convicted in April 2012 of raping a 19-year-old woman at a hotel in north Wales. He was released from prison last year after serving half of his five-year sentence. The 27-year-old Evans always maintained his innocence and took his case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which overturned the original verdict.

The new trial is on Oct. 4.

“I am very excited and privileged to be resuming my career at Chesterfield,” Evans said, “and I hope to make a valuable contribution both on and off the pitch for the football club, the fans and the community.”

Before he succeeded in his appeal, Sheffield United invited Evans to use its training facilities, before rescinding the offer because more than 165,000 people signed a petition opposing it. Sheffield-born Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill asked for her name to be removed from a stand at the club’s Bramall Lane stadium if Evans signed.

Another third-tier club, Oldham, attempted to sign Evans months later but pulled out of the deal following pressure from sponsors.

Chesterfield is coached by Danny Wilson, who was Evans’ manager at Sheffield United.

“We are delighted to have secured the services of an outstanding footballer, who is now keen to get back to work and score goals,” Allen said.

Evans is a former Manchester City striker and has played 13 times for Wales.

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