The football club that signed a disgraced player who had been jailed for domestic violence has now U-turned following a fierce backlash.
Selby Town had announced on Tuesday that it was offering Reece Thompson, who was sentenced to three years in prison for assault and grievous bodily harm in 2019, a “second chance”.
Less than a day later, after fierce criticism from fans and the loss of estate agent sponsor Reed Rains, the club said it had “listened” and that it would no longer be signing Thompson.
A court heard how Thompson subjected his partner to a three-day ordeal in which he hit her with an iron bar and forced her to eat paint.
The footballer was taken on trial by Selby Town during pre-season earlier this year.
Fans met the news of his arrival with anger, with some supporters saying it sent out the wrong message to victims of abuse.
The club – after having initially said handing the 26-year-old a trial had been a “serious error of judgement” and that he would not play again – announced its decision to sign Thompson on Tuesday, saying that while it didn’t condone his actions, it felt he deserved a second chance.
The announcement was swiftly met with a backlash from fans, who urged the club to reconsider.
One said: “Will never go to watch this team I supported all my life again. Please reconsider or accept losing lifelong fans like me.”
Chris de Souza branded the decision “disgusting”, adding: “It is not your place to say you forgive a man who beat his partner ‘with an iron bar, smashing her head with two mirrors and forcing her to eat paint’.
“And then belittled her on social media and was recalled to prison. The fans and public made it clear he is not welcome at this club. Shame on you.”
Reed Rains said its decision to pull its sponsorship still stands, despite the U-turn.
Domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid welcomed the decision to not sign Thompson.
Lucy Hadley, campaign and policy manager at the charity, told Yahoo News UK: “The decision by Selby Town FC to sign Reece Thompson, a convicted domestic abuse perpetrator currently on licence for appalling violence against his partner, was shocking.
“It sent a dangerous message that violence against women is acceptable and has no long-term consequences for the perpetrator.”
She added: “We are very pleased to hear that Selby Town FC has now reversed its decision, following the actions of its sponsor Reed Rains and feedback from football supporters.
“This shows that standing united against domestic abuse makes a positive difference.”