Raith director Bill Clark explains reasons for Dunfermline abandonment as £180k upgrade goes wrong
Raith Rovers’ much-anticipated Fife derby with Dunfermline Athletic only last 14 minutes after the club’s new £180,000 Stark’s Park lighting and WiFi system failed, forcing an abandonment.
In a surreal night in Kirkcaldy, the power went out just before kick-off for this cinch Championship encounter, but while the floodlights came back on after ten minutes and the match began, lighting in the stands’ concourses and the WiFi connections that control turnstile entry had failed – and could not be fixed.
This led to hundreds of supporters queuing up outside the stadium as play went on and, just under a quarter-of-an-hour in, referee Gavin Duncan was advised by his fourth official Lloyd Wilson that the match had to be called off on security grounds.
Bamboozled fans inside the stadium made their displeasure known with chants of “what the ****ing hell is that” as Raith tried to convey the situation over the tannoy – clearly not linked up to the faulty system – before the hosts’ director, Bill Clark, explained the situation to assembled media.
"The first problem we had was with the floodlights, as everybody saw, but we managed to fix that,” Clark said. “We also, however, have got a problem with the WiFi system, and that controls our electronic ticketing, so we had hundreds of fans outside queuing. They were very angry, obviously, as they should be. So we couldn't let anybody through the gates on the advice of police.
"The other problem that we've got is that we can't get the concourse lights on in the two main stands, so there's a health and safety issue. As the night wears on, you can't have hundreds and hundreds of fans going out in darkness.
"It's a massive disappointment. Huge apologies to everyone here – the supporters, all the people watching on TV and everyone else who assembled here for what should have been a cracking match. It's embarrassing for the club.
Clark’s frustration was exacerbated by the fact Raith spend a substantial amount of money during the close season upgrading their facilities. "It cost around £180,000 to install,” he said. “It is the most modern system – it's the same system as Manchester United have. It's so unfortunate because this is the first night we've used these floodlights. They were tested. They were installed during the summer and tested to destruction. There's been a power surge or something, or an overload of some kind.
"Until we get to the bottom of what is actually the problem, I really don't know whether there will be repercussions or not, or it will just simply be that it will be replayed at a later date. That's about all I can tell you."
Rovers boss John McGlynn could not hide his disappointment. "The players weren’t happy and we can only apologise, it was something that was unforeseen,” he said. “As a football club we’ll need to see what the issue was and how we can fix that issue, then from the SPFL point of view getting the game on at a different time. A quarter of a million on floodlights, yeah! And then a fuse goes out – frightening.”
Dunfermline manager Peter Grant was philosophical. “You just had to accept that safety came first,” he said. “We’ve seen tragedies before at football grounds and we don’t want to see it again.”
For what little action we saw, the Pars started best and nearly scored through Dan Pybus, but these two will need to reconvene at a later date at Stark’s Park when – hopefully – power is restored.