FC Halifax Town have issued a club statement regarding the signing of midfielder Simon Lenighan.
The Shaymen have defended their decision to sign Lenighan after the move prompted an angry reaction among some supporters.
Midfielder Lenighan, who made his debut in Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat at Salford, pleaded guilty to assaulting three women on a night out in Harrogate in 2015, and was given a community order for 12 months, including 150 hours of unpaid work.
Earlier that year, he was found not guilty of raping a young woman at a hotel in Leeds.
After that trial, and before committing the assault, he made an appearance on loan for Town in a 2-1 defeat at Chester.
Halifax’s statement reads: “Following some public comment this week, the club feels it’s only appropriate to give an honest account around the decision-making process into the short-term signing of Simon Lenighan and provide some clarity over the move to bring him back to FC Halifax Town.
“We fully understand and appreciate the feedback and comments that have been shared with us by our supporters. We’ve sometimes been accused of a lack of communication but feel this situation deserves an explanation of our decision so that we can be as open and frank as possible.
“The club is aware of Simon Lenighan’s past and a decision to give him a short-term contract was fully discussed by all parties.
“The decision was based on a number of more recent factors including, Simon clearly and sincerely being extremely remorseful for his previous mistake. The incident happened three years ago, and he understands the severity of the mistake he made, but he’s now trying very hard to turn his life around, avoiding any further misdemeanours and he’s now settled with a partner and young son.
“In the past our Club has supported numerous players, both reported and unreported, who have found themselves in similar difficult situations.
“Those players proved to themselves, their families and our supporters that they were able to turn their lives around through being given another opportunity. Some in very spectacular ways.
“The club does not endorse or condone this previous behaviour in any way. However, we believe that Simon Lenighan is deserving of another chance, as other clubs have given him. We hope and trust his football will be what is judged upon going forward.
“So our plea to our supporters is to continue to support the team and the manager and not let this issue derail what has been a really positive start to the season, so that we can continue to build on the momentum we’ve already established.”