Raith Rovers: David Goodwillie signing is an insult to every survivor of rape or sexual violence – Martyn McLaughlin

There are many reasons for supporters of Raith Rovers FC to be proud of their club, not all of which hanker back to its halcyon days in the early 1990s, when Danny Lennon’s free kick gave them a fleeting lead against German giants Bayern Munich in a UEFA Cup tie.

It has invested considerable time and effort establishing a charitable community foundation to forge closer ties with the Fife town of Kirkcaldy, offering holiday camps for children, and providing essential food and supplies for those who have struggled the most during the pandemic.

This homely club can also lay claim to having the oldest affiliated women’s team in Scotland, and now has more than 140 girls and women playing across its various age groups.

But the events of this week are not a source of pride. Instead, there is only hurt, humiliation, and anger. In one catastrophically misjudged move, the club has put its hard-won position as a fulcrum of the community at risk, and forced many of its fans into a choice they should never have to make.

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At 10.30pm on Monday evening, just half an hour before the January transfer window closed, Raith announced via its Twitter account that the club had signed David Goodwillie, the former Scotland international.

A brief statement on its website saw manager John McGlynn lavish praise on the 32-year-old, describing him as “the top goal scorer in Scotland” and someone who would prove “crucial to the club’s promotion push” as it seeks to return to the top flight of Scottish football for the first time in nearly three decades.

Remarkably, the statement went further, with the veteran manager insisting that every striker at the club would “benefit greatly from his experience in matches and training”. Mr McGlynn may regard Goodwillie as a role model, but such a status relies on more than sporting prowess. It demands good character, integrity, empathy, personal responsibility, and humility. It would be an understatement to point out that Goodwillie has none of these qualities.

Don’t take my word for it, take Lord Armstrong’s. In 2017, he deemed Goodwillie to be neither a credible or reliable witness, offering evidence which was partial and partisan. In doing so, he ruled that the footballer and his former Dundee United teammate, David Robertson, were rapists, and ordered them to pay £100,000 to their victim, Denise Clair.

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Crime writer Val McDermid has ended her sponsorship of Raith Rovers after the club signed David Goodwillie (Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire)

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David Goodwillie signs for Raith Rovers despite Val McDermid objections

The aftershocks of that civil rape case have followed Goodwillie ever since, and rightly so. He has never shown any public contrition. It took just two months after Lord Armstrong’s verdict before he returned to the game in which he made his name, later bemoaning how he had lost his house and his cars.

All the while, Ms Clair, who waived her anonymity to pursue the civil case after the Crown Office decided not to prosecute, was forced to endure a torrent of abuse on social media, the worst of which came in the form of death and rape threats. At times, the trauma was so all consuming that she wrote letters of goodbye to her loved ones before tearing them up.

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What message does it send to the young women and girls who pull on the Raith jersey that Goodwillie is now one of their own? This is someone who was not only adjudged to have committed rape, but who has two assault convictions to his name. What must Ms Clair think today on hearing that the man who raped her has not only rehabilitated by Scottish football, but rewarded by it?

No doubt Raith, like Clyde FC before it, will seek to belatedly justify the signing, but there can be no defence which stands up to scrutiny. The growing backlash ought to emphasise that point.

Tyler Rattray, the captain of the Raith women’s team and a decade-long veteran of the club, has announced that she is quitting in protest; Margie Robertson, the supporter liason officer, has handed in her resignation; Bev Harkins, a coach with the women’s and girls’ sides, has also stepped away from the role she loves. “After all our hard work on bringing the club together to be part of our community, it’s just a complete slap in the face,” she reasoned.

Rath’s directors, who include Karen Macartney, its chief executive, have already ostracised vast swaths of the club’s fanbase. Many have ripped up their season tickets, vowing never to set foot in Stark’s Park again for as long as Goodwillie is a member of the playing squad, while volunteers who have poured their hearts and souls into the club have severed their ties.

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The author, Val McDermid, one of Raith’s most passionate ambassadors, who has served as a director of the club, spoke for many when she declared the Goodwillie signing a “disgusting and despicable move” which “shatters any claim to be a community or family club”. She has cancelled her sponsorship of the team, describing the decision as a “heartbreaker”.

The pain and anguish fans like her are feeling is real, and yet the collateral damage of Raith’s decision extends even further. It is an insult to each and every survivor of rape or sexual violence, and it sends a ruinous message to impressionable boys and young men that they can behave and act however they like, provided they have the talent with which to redeem themselves.

Those in charge of Raith may consider it a prudent gamble to abandon their every moral in order to chase the moneyed lands of the Scottish Premiership, but even if they secure promotion, it will be a hollow victory. There are some things in sport that are more important than trophies and titles, and if the board of Raith have lost sight of that, it is time they tendered their resignations.

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