Raith Rovers fans have been left “devastated” by the signing of David Goodwillie, one of its most influential supporters has said.
The arrival of striker Goodwillie has caused a furious backlash, promoting board members to quit, sponsors to withdraw their backing and the departure of the women’s team captain.
Among the first to react was bestselling crime writer Val McDermid, who has ended her financial backing of the Championship side.
Goodwillie was branded a rapist by a judge and ordered to pay a woman £100,000 damages following a civil court case in 2017.
Steven Lawther, from the Raith Rovers Supporters Trust, told Scotland Tonight that the signing felt like a “betrayal”.
He said the fallout should have been anticipated after an initial negative reaction when the player was first linked with the Kirkcaldy club before Christmas.
“The immediate impact is hurt – we’re really devastated that the club has made this decision,” said Mr Lawther.
“When the news came out that the club signed him, I think betrayal is the word that comes to mind.
“The opposition to this [before the signing] was really clear, so they made this decision knowing what the potential damage was. I don’t know what they were thinking. I really don’t.”
In a statement on Tuesday night, Raith said the signing had been a “football-related decision” and that the club was aiming to “rebuild trust” with its community.
But Mr Lawther fears the damage done to the club’s reputation may be difficult to repair.
He said: “We’re not a Rangers or Celtic or a Hearts or a Hibs. We’re a smaller club with a fanbase that’s run very much by a tiny community.
“Our volunteers play a huge part in that. We’ve got a women’s team, we’ve got youth levels, girls and women’s football.
“We’ve got a lot of high-profile female people around the club and supporters, so the decision to sign this player and ignore the consequences is unthinking.”
‘Incapable of consent’
Goodwillie and former Dundee United teammate David Robertson were sued in 2017 for raping a woman at a flat in Armadale, West Lothian.
No criminal charges had been brought against the pair due to insufficient evidence. The footballers admitted having sex with her, but claimed it had been consensual.
However, in the civil court case, judge Lord Armstrong ruled that due to the woman’s “excessive intake of alcohol” she was “incapable of giving meaningful consent” and that the players raped her.
‘Part of the club’
In their statement, Raith described Goodwillie as “part of the club”, adding: “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.
“First and foremost, this was a football related decision.”