Raith board warned U-turn over Goodwillie signing is ‘too little, too late’

Soccer – William Hill Scottish Cup – Quarter Final – Raith Rovers v St Johnstone – Starks Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

The Raith Rovers board have been warned their U-turn over the signing of David Goodwillie is “too little, too late”.

Rovers stated on Thursday that the former Scotland striker would not be selected for the club and talks were under way over the two-and-a-half-year contract he signed on Monday.

The purchase of Goodwillie from Clyde sparked a furore given the 32-year-old was found by a judge in a civil case in 2017 to have raped a woman.

Several prominent supporters, directors and sponsors, including high-profile author Val McDermid, withdrew their backing of the cinch Championship club as a result and a number of staff and volunteers quit their roles.

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In a statement, Rovers chairman John Sim apologised “wholeheartedly” and admitted: “We got it wrong.

“In reaching our original decision, we focused far too much on football matters and not enough on what this decision would mean for our club and the community as a whole,” he added.

The statement concluded: “This very unfortunate episode is something that we all bitterly regret and we are now wholly committed to making things right.

“We share a desire to do what is best for our club and will be doing everything in our power to regain the trust and confidence of the Raith Rovers family.”

David Goodwillie

David Goodwillie’s signing sparked controversy (Andrew Milligan/PA)

However, former chairman Bill Clark, who stepped down from the board on Monday along with Andrew Mill, warned the episode could cost the club a six-figure sum and expressed sadness that his fellow directors did not heed the warning of the two dissenting voices.

He added to Sky Sports News: “It is, I think, too little too late because this went really deeply into people’s minds, and a whole range of people, lots and lots of people. I think it’s going to take a long time to rebuild the reputation of the club.

“The financial situation will be difficult but I think the club can get over that eventually. The damage to the reputation is the main thing I am concerned about.

“I don’t think it is the end because I see a lot of people – and I mean a lot of people – saying that the people who made the original decision should go because, if that’s the standard of leadership, management and adherence to the morals and values of Raith Rovers and they are still there, then really that is not good and I think they should go.

“I would go along with what the majority of supporters say but personally I do feel that myself.”

McDermid, whose name is on the club’s shirts and on one of their stands, said the climbdown was a “victory of sorts” but “just the first step on a long road back”.

She added: “The same people who made the decision are still in charge. Those who love and value the club are still on the outside; they need to be on the inside, shaping the future for the community.”

Goodwillie’s future in the game now looks uncertain, although players can move to clubs in Scotland’s three lower divisions on loan until February 28 so a return to Clyde could be an option.

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown at Stark’s Park

However, former prime minister and Raith fan Gordon Brown claimed football authorities now “need to consider how we deal with cases of footballers where there has been rape and violence against women”.

Raith Rovers women’s captain, Tyler Rattray, was among those who quit but the community club is now focused on supporting the 140 or so girls and women in their ranks to continue playing football.

Scottish Women’s Football chief executive Aileen Campbell claimed the Raith board “should have seen this coming” and hopes there is a silver lining to the episode.

“If we are going to take anything positive from this then the signs and signals of solidarity with the women’s team are something we should be building forward from and making sure we maintain that level of interest and empowerment to the women’s game more generally,” she told Sky.

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