November 21, 2014 8:00 AM EST

British soccer club Sheffield United has withdrawn its offer to let convicted rapist Ched Evans use their training facilities following his release from prison, according to a statement made Thursday.

Sheffield United had agreed to allow Evans to train with them again after the Professional Footballers’ Association argued the soccer star should be free to resume his career.

MORE: Soccer star convicted of rape returns to training amid angry debate

The club has now reversed the decision, citing the unexpected intensity of the public reaction.

A string of patrons resigned from the club and more than 165,000 members of the public signed a petition calling on the club not to allow Evans to play again.

Evans played for Sheffield United for three years before he was convicted in 2012 of raping a 19-year-old woman. He served two and a half years of a five-year sentence and was released from prison last month.

 

 

Write to Naina Bajekal at naina.bajekal@time.com.

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