Raith stand by Goodwillie signing despite angry backlash

Raith Rovers consider new signing David Goodwillie as ‘part of the club’ after the arrival of the striker sparked departures and a backlash from club sponsor Val McDermid, fans, Rape Crisis Scotland and Nicola Sturgeon.

Former Scotland international Goodwillie joined Raith Rovers on a two-and-a-half-year deal from Clyde on Deadline Day.

Goodwillie, who previously played for clubs including Dundee United, Blackburn Rovers and Aberdeen, was ruled to be a rapist in a civil court case in 2017 although no criminal proceedings were instructed.

He was ordered to pay £100,000 in damages by a judge after it was ruled he raped a woman in a flat in West Lothian in 2011. The Crown had previously decided not to prosecute Goodwillie due to insufficient evidence.

Crime writer McDermid has ended her shirt sponsorship while a number of supporters say they have withdrawn their backing for the club.

A club statement on Tuesday read: „As announced on our website last night, Raith Rovers FC can confirm that we have signed David Goodwillie from Clyde FC.

„David is a proven goal scorer, and this will be his second stint with the club, having previously played for us on loan from Dundee United during season 2007-08.

„As with all new signings, the club has carefully considered our position as a Community Club and we completely respect the differing views among fans and stakeholders, many of whom we have spoken to directly in the past 24 hours and are continuing to engage with.

„As David has previously played for Raith Rovers earlier in his career, we consider him to be part of the Raith Rovers Football Club. The management team is familiar with David’s career and background and – in particular – his footballing ability. That is our foremost consideration, and we believe that he will strengthen the Raith Rovers playing squad.

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„Please be assured that as a community football club we fully acknowledge this signing has divided opinion amongst our loyal fans and commercial stakeholders; we aim to rebuild that trust.

„While acknowledging the gravity of what happened ten years ago, as a club we fully support and encourage rehabilitation, and many factors influenced our signing. But first and foremost, this was a football related decision.“

McDermid was the shirt sponsor of Raith Rovers in 2014, and in 2010 the North Stand at Starks Park was renamed the McDermid Stand in honour of her father who was a scout for the Kirkcaldy club.

The novelist, who has sold more than 17 million books, wrote on Twitter: „I have this morning ended my lifelong support of Raith Rovers over their signing of the rapist David Goodwillie.

„I have cancelled next season’s shirt sponsorship over this disgusting and despicable move. This shatters any claim to be a community or family club.

„Goodwillie has never expressed a shred of remorse for the rape he committed. His presence at Starks Park is a stain on the club.

„I’ll be tearing up my season ticket too. This is a heartbreaker for me and many other fans, I know.“

In a later post on social media, she added: „The thought of the rapist David Goodwillie running out on the pitch at Starks Park in a Raith Rovers shirt withmy name on it makes me feel physically sick.“

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Raith Women’s captain Tyler Rattray announced she will be leaving the club in the wake of the Goodwillie signing. Writing on Twitter, she said: „After 10 long years playing for Raith, it’s gutting I have given up now because they have signed someone like this and I want nothing to do with it! It was good being captain of Raith while it lasted.“

Scotland’s First Minister described McDermid and Rattray’s responses as „principled – though difficult for both of them“.

Nicola Sturgeon added: „But the fact they’re in this position at all reminds us that our society still has a way to go to make zero tolerance of sexual violence a reality.“

Raith Rovers’ Supporters’ Liaison Officer, Margie Robertson, has also resigned.

Writing on Twitter she said: „Due to recent developments within the club I have today tendered my resignation as SLO/DAO. My values and that of the club are now on a divergent path. I would like to thank everyone who has encouraged me and helped me through out my tenure. I have enjoyed meeting so many fans.“

In a statement issued on their website, Rape Crisis Scotland said: „We are surprised and deeply disappointed that Raith Rovers FC are happy to send such a clear message of disregard to survivors of rape and sexual violence in signing David Goodwillie.

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„Fundamentally – though it seems Raith FC do not agree – women’s lives are more important than men’s talent or careers. Footballers are role models – particularly for young people – and it’s not okay to have someone in this position who has been found by a senior judge to be a rapist.

„We wonder whether those who took this decision thought for a second about how it may look or feel to survivors to have to watch someone judged to have committed rape be celebrated and applauded. This was a bad decision that sends entirely the wrong message, and it should be withdrawn.“