Of course, Rotherham United knew what they were getting themselves involved with when they took him on in the first place, but the news earlier this week that manager Steve Evans – subject of the most read post ever to appear on this little website – will now be the subject of a six match stadium ban for his new club over his involvement in some fairly ridiculous scenes earlier this during both during and after a League Two match between Bradford City and his previous club, Crawley Town. A stadium ban is more all-encompassing than a touchline ban. For six matches and with immediate effect, Evans will be banned from attending the ground at which Rotherham United’s first team are playing at any time during a match day, but those taken aback by the ruling should probably be aware that Evans has a lengthy history of such behaviour.
In November 2005, Evans was given a £1,000 fine, which was suspended for a year, after admitting to using insulting or abusive words to the match official in a match against Peterborough United the previous month. In February 2006, Evans was escorted from the dug-out by police at half-time during a match between Grimsby Town and Boston United following a complaint of alleged foul and abusive language, which came after an incident during which the Grimsby Town goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall may or may not – may not, according to the referee – have handled the ball outside of the penalty area. He was defended after the match by the Boston United chairman Jon Sotnick, whose subsequent comments on Evans make for remarkable reading:
There seems to be a conspiracy at work. At every game Steve seems to be singled out for extra attention from the police – and I’m determined to get the bottom of this. This was a disgrace and I’ve launched my own investigation to find out why the police ejected an employee of mine from his place of work.
It’s one thing being sent to the stands but this went way beyond that and I want answers. Steve is no angel, and his language can be rather colourful at times, but that in no way excuses how he was treated. Steve was thrown out of the ground with no money, no mobile phone and was left to fend for himself.
Of course, such on the pitch indiscretions were at the time taking second place to Evans’ other extra-curricular activities. He had first been suspended as the manager of Boston United in the summer of 2002 following an FA investigation into contract irregularities at the club, an offence that cost him a twenty month ban from the game from January 2003. His return to the club had followed in March 2004, but by September of that year he was in court on criminal charges of fraud. After pleading guilty to conspiracy to evade tax – a plea which was changed towards the end of the trial – on 3 November 2006 Evans received a one-year suspended sentence and a £1,000 fine. Boston United, meanwhile, had run out of money and lost their Football League status at the end of that season. In the immediate aftermath of the relegation, Evans told the clubs website at the start of May 2007 that, “I have a contract at Boston and I will not be applying for the manager’s job at Chester City or indeed a job anywhere,” but by the end of the month his tune had changed somewhat: “This was a hard decision but, given events over the last few weeks and months, it was the only decision we could make. We have families to support and we need to be given at least some chance of doing the job we’re employed to do.” Two days later, both he and assistant manager Paul Raynor joined Crawley Town instead.
Still, however, the disciplinary problems didn’t end. During the 2007/08 season, he earned misconduct charges over his behaviour during matches against Woking, Northwich Victoria, Burton Albion and Aldershot Town, and received a four match ban and a £1,000 fine for his troubles, as well as a two month suspension from all football activity suspended until the end of the 2008/09 season. An appeal reduced the length of the original ban from four to two matches, but added a twenty match touchline ban, of which ten were suspended until the end of the 2009/10 season. His return to action, however, didn’t remain trouble-free for long, and a further improper conduct charge in February 2009 following an incident during a match against Salisbury City meant that the ten match suspended ban was invoked, along with a further three match stadium ban, meaning that Evans served a thirteen match ban from the start of the 2009/10 season.
Then, of course, came the money and money changes everything. A financially-inflated Crawley Town side raced to the Blue Square Bet Premier league title and the Fifth Round Proper of the FA Cup during the 2010/11 season with Evans being described, in a sycophantic publicity splash – sample quote, “Like Paul on the road to Damascus, Evans is on his own path to redemption” – with The Sun, to be “a changed man”. These precise words were foisted upon him by the article’s anonymous writer, but Evans was given plenty of space in which to give a self-evaluation:
At one point I was sent to the stands four times in seven matches. I knew it couldn’t go on. I couldn’t sleep. And I certainly couldn’t afford to keep telling my wife Sarah I needed another cheque for £500 to pay the FA fine. Crawley’s owner Bruce Winfield said I should be setting an example. That he and his business partner Sue Carter had cleared almost £1million in debts, had a five-year plan and, if I wanted to be part of it, I had to conform.
They didn’t want an altar boy but I had to control it. Now I sleep better, live better and I’m much happier. All because I have accepted not everyone is against me.
No one has apologised more. No one was punished more. I made a mistake. Would I make that same mistake again? I’d rather jump out of a plane without a parachute. I totally regret it. It was embarrassing to me and, much worse, to my family. All I hoped was someone would give me a second chance and, thankfully, that was Crawley.
At the end of last season, Evans and Raynor, who had signed three year contract extensions with Crawley in February 2011, with Evans stating that, “[Crawley Town owners] Susan Carter and Bruce Winfield wanted to make sure they tied us up and gave us more security on and off the pitch. It didn’t take us very long to agree the terms and conditions. We’ll tie the loose ends up in the summer. We don’t want it to cut across anything before the work is done this season. I’ve started something here and I want to fulfil it. This club has given us a great opportunity to progress our careers into the Football League”, left Crawley Town to join Rotherham United instead.
All of which brings us to the match between Bradford City and Crawley Town on the twenty-seventh of March this year. The match ended with five players sent off and a fight at the full-time whistle which brought no great credit upon anybody concerned. As we might have predicted considering his track record, Evans became involved in all of this and was charged by the Football Association with “using abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting words and/or behaviour towards a participant in or around the dressing room area at the end of the Bradford City versus Crawley Town Football League Two fixture on 27 March 2012.” A further charge, that the breach included a reference to gender, was thrown out, and the commission also confirmed that it had not found that Evans had used indecent words or behaviour – as reported here – during the incident. Evans will serve a six match stadium ban which, as the FA explains, “will prevent Mr Evans from attending the ground at which Rotherham United’s first team are playing at any time during a match day.” Evans reaction to this has been to state that, “For the good of Rotherham United I accept the verdict and will move on with no further comment.”
That Evans would be in disciplinary hot water yet again over this matter would have been common knowledge to Rotherham United when they have him this job in the first place, and Evans and Raynor, of all managerial duos, will be better prepared than most for an extended managerial ban from the touchline. The club will, in all likelihood, be fine and remains amongst the favourites to get promoted from League Two at the end of this season. This is the price that has to be paid for Evans joining the club, and it’s a risk that presumably was weighed up against his record in recent seasons when offering him the job. There may well be many that are prepared to do this deal and many others who simply feel as if they have no choice but to accept the decision made by the directors of the club with regard to this appointment. One thing, however, does seem likely: Steve Evans is not quite the “changed man” that his friends in the police would like us to believe that he is.
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