TRIBUTES poured in yesterday for former Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton, who has died at the age of 68 after a short illness.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown, a committed Raith Rovers supporter, saluted the “financial acumen” that Hutton was able to call upon as he helped steer the club towards financial stability.
He will be remembered for his dedicated leadership of the club and his winning approach to footballGordon Brown
Hutton had two spells as chairman, stepping down in November for the second time after Raith announced a profit of nearly £100,000.
But it was as an outspoken figure during unprecedented scenes of rancour in the Scottish game that Hutton rose to prominence. He led the opposition against a proposal to place Rangers in the second tier of Scottish football three summers ago.
Hutton chided those involved in seeking to re-locate Rangers in the old First Division. He described the Scottish Premier League as a “dead parrot” organisation and as a result found himself lionised by fans who felt they were being forced to accept collusion on a grand sale.
At one game, Aberdeen fans unfurled a banner proclaiming “We are all Turnbull Hutton”. In seeming reference to this, a statement from Raith Rovers yesterday included the line: “Today, we are all Turnbull Hutton”.
The club’s honorary president was recently diagnosed with leukaemia and lost his fight with the disease just a week after being admitted to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. Hutton, a Harvard graduate, made his mark in business in the drinks industry and joined the Raith Rovers board in 2000.
“Raith Rovers FC are sorry to announce that our honorary president and former chairman Turnbull Hutton passed away last night,” said a club statement yesterday morning. “Our thoughts are with his family, particularly his wife Margo, his son Neil and daughter Lindsey and all his many friends in football and business.”
Confirmation of the news was quickly followed by tributes from elsewhere, including Neil Doncaster, chief executive of the SPFL. It was after hearing Doncaster and Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan warn that the Scottish Football League could kill the Scottish game if they didn’t deal allow Rangers into the second tier that Hutton launched his memorable broadside in 2012.
He later insisted he never had reason to regret it. “What has happened since suggests it was the right view,” Hutton said in an interview in 2013. Rather than being informed by an anti-Rangers view or a pro-Celtic one, he said it was simply “my own view – and I can live with that”.
Doncaster yesterday said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the passing of Hutton. He added: “I was fortunate enough to get to know Turnbull during the period of reconstruction and since. He was an individual who added great colour and personality to the Scottish game.”
Gordon Brown said Hutton would be “sorely missed”. He added: “A lifelong supporter of Raith Rovers, he will be remembered for his dedicated leadership of the club and his winning approach to football.
“While other clubs went under or stayed in the red, Turnbull Hutton’s financial acumen steered Raith Rovers to financial stability, paving the way for its Ramsden’s Cup trophy win against Rangers under his chairmanship.
“Even after he stepped down as chairman he remained honorary president of the club he supported since growing up in Fife. Our thoughts are with his wife Margo and family.”
Other tributes included one from Livingston, the new holders of the Ramsden’s Cup following Sunday’s win over Alloa Athletic. “Greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Raith Rovers FC former chairman Turnbull Hutton. Our condolences to his and the Rovers family.”
In November, Hutton spoke of his satisfaction at finally stepping away from football in an official capacity. “I don’t want to be a 70-year-old chairman with bad knees, climbing boardroom stairs every day,” he said. “I have had 30 years of involvement in various boardrooms, with 15 at Raith Rovers. That’s over and above the call of duty.”
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