SHEFFIELD, England (AP) — An English football club withdrew its offer to allow a player who was convicted of rape to resume training at its facilities, saying on Thursday the backlash from critics had been "at an intensity that could not have been anticipated."

Sheffield United, which plays in England's third tier, accepted last week a request from the country's players' union to allow Wales international Ched Evans to train at the club following his release from jail after serving half of a five-year sentence for rape.

United's decision was criticized by leading politicians, campaign groups and its own shirt sponsor, while Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis said she would want her name removed from one of the stands at the club's stadium if Evans was to be signed.

The club released a statement saying it was "retracting the opportunity" given to Evans "after ongoing and extensive deliberation."

"We recognize that a number of our supporters will be disappointed with this decision, but would ask that they remember the responsibilities we have not only to a fine and proud club, whose history stretches back over 125 years, but also to the communities in which Sheffield United is active and to the city we represent.

"The club initially accepted a request ... for Ched Evans to be able to train. The reaction to this has been at an intensity that could not have been anticipated when first announced."

United said it consulted with supporters, vice presidents, community members, staff and sponsors before reaching the decision, adding it was "disappointed at some of the ... misinformed views and commentary" around the issue.

"Sheffield United will not be used to promote the view that professional footballers should be treated differently, as has been the want of certain sections of the media and various commentators," the statement said.

Previously, United said there should be no place for "mob justice" regarding Evans.

Evans, who has played 13 times for Wales and is a former Manchester City player, admitted to having sex with the woman in a hotel room in 2011 but denied raping her. The woman said in court that she had no memory of the incident and the prosecution said she was too drunk to consent. The 25-year-old Evans was playing for Sheffield United before being convicted.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned United that it needed to think "long and hard" about allowing Evans to train at the club, saying that footballers were role models not just employees.

Three people — including TV presenter Charlie Webster — resigned as patrons of United after Evans was invited to return to training, while musician Paul Heaton stood down as a patron of the club's community foundation.

Shirt sponsor DBL Logistics said it would end its deal with United if it decided to employ Evans.