Val McDermid has accused a Raith Rovers board member of lying to her over the signing of David Goodwillie, just a few days before a transfer that has sent shockwaves through Scottish football.
The crime writer, who is a prominent supporter of the Fife club and a long-term sponsor, also explained how she was severing ties with the club, and that the thought of Goodwillie wearing a shirt with her name on it makes her feel “physically sick”.
Raith Rovers signed Goodwillie despite a court ruling in a civil case in 2017 that he and now retired player David Robertson had raped Denise Clair, who waved her anonymity. The two men were ordered to pay damages of £100,000 to her, but no criminal charges were brought against either of them.
In an interview with Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour today (2 February), McDermid said the signing “sets a terrible example to what’s supposed to be a community club.”
She also revealed that she was lied to by a board member when she sought assurances that it would not go ahead.
She said: “I was lied to by a board member, just a few days before this signing took place. When this subject first came up in local newspapers, I raised it with a board member when I was at a game a couple of weeks back, and she said, ‘the chief executive looked me straight in the eye and said the club has no interest in Goodwillie whatsoever. I agree with you, we shouldn’t sign someone like that.’
“Next thing I know, she’s negotiating his transfer. So there we go, that’s the kind of people we’re dealing with here.”
Women’s teams seeking to cut ties with Raith Rovers
Yesterday Bill Clark, a former chairman of the club, resigned from the board of Raith Rovers over the transfer. He was joined by Tyler Rattray, captain of the women’s team, and McDermid is keen to support the club’s female players, who are now actively distancing themselves from the Raith Rovers brand.
McDermid said: “I’ve pivoted towards the women’s and girls’ teams and my position now is to support them into rebuilding their confidence and their trust in themselves. They had a meeting last night, and the upshot of that is essentially they want to completely distance themselves from Raith Rovers Football Club.
“They’re currently having new shirts printed that don’t have the Raith Rovers crest on them. They are committed to playing their fixture on Sunday, not at Starks Park, the Raith Rovers ground. They’re talking about changing the name of the club, that’ll be something they have to discuss with Scottish Women’s Football, but they are adamant they no longer wish to be associated with Raith Rovers Football Club.”
On the transfer itself, McDermid reiterated her position that this isn’t about rehabilitation: “As a writer of crime fiction, I fully understand rehabilitation and redemption, it’s one of the features of my books. But I also understand the power of crimes like this against the victims.
“In a way, Denise Clair, who gave up her anonymity so she could tell the world what had been done to her, has been forgotten in all of this. Denise and all the other women who have been victimised by men who are sexually violent over the years have got lost in all this.
“David Goodwillie is a man who has taken part in this violence against women. It’s not the sort of message we want to send to our supporters, to our young people, to the people of Kirkcaldy, to say ‘here’s someone to look up to’, because he’s not someone to look up to.
“For the club to make this decision on the basis of ‘football issues’ seems to me to be appalling.”
Asked if there’s anything Goodwillie himself could do, McDermid said: “He could start by apologising to Denise Clair, he could start by acknowledging the damage he did to her, he could start by acknowledging the wrongness of his behaviour, and how he is prepared to work hard in future to support work against violence against women.”
‘One of the worst statements I’ve seen in my life’
McDermid also condemned the statement which the club released yesterday in the wake of the scandal, calling it “possibly one of the worst press statements I’ve seen in my life”.
The statement read: “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. First and foremost, this was a football related decision.”
McDermid called it “insane”.
“They’ve spent all day putting that together and that’s what they came out with,” she said.
“It’s insane to say that the footballing decision should be the most important thing. It’s obviously a big part of the decision when you sign someone for a football club, but what also you should also take into consideration is their character, and what message that sends to your support and beyond.
“Last night’s attendance at the game - 1,005 - is way lower than our average attendance. Fans are voting with their feet. This is a story that has inflamed people’s passions, because we’re in a world now where people expect their public figures to have decent conduct, to have decent attitudes towards women.”
As a lifelong supporter of Raith Rovers, McDermid said the situation was “heartbreaking” for her: “I love Raith Rovers, it’s been part of my life, my father was a scout for the club. I love the club. There’s a big stand there that has my name on it. My name is on the front of those shirts.”
She explained that her shirt sponsorship has to continue to the end of the current season due to contractual obligations, but added that “the thought of my name emblazoned across his [Goodwillie’s] chest is something that profoundly upsets me.”
Raith Rovers have not issued any further statements on the matter, and David Goodwillie has not commented either.
The chief executive of Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) has warned the signing of Goodwilie has “tarnished” the reputation of Raith Rovers and could have “devastating consequences” for females in the sport.
Aileen Campbell said the Kirkcaldy club had made a “badly misjudged” decision signing Goodwillie.
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