Raith Rovers owner and former chairman John Sim has said that he was “appalled” by the public reaction to the signing of David Goodwillie and initially thought about closing the club in response.
The Championship club bought striker Goodwillie from Clyde in January and suffered an instant backlash from fans who were unhappy at the signing of a player who a civil court judged had been guilty of raping a woman in 2011.
Sponsor and high-profile Rovers fan Val McDermid walked away from the club and two directors resigned. Fans protested and the club’s women’s team quit.
Rovers’ initial response was to stand by the signing, saying it had been made with footballing ability being “the foremost consideration”, but then relented and said that he would never play for the club. A loan back to Clyde was arranged but then terminated after an angry response.
In the aftermath, Raith implemented a number of changes behind the scenes, including Sim stepping aside to be replaced as chairman by Steven McDonald.
Sim has now given an interview to The Courier where he has made his feelings on the issue clear, and revealed that he initially considered a dramatic act in the face of public outcry.
“I’m appalled by the reaction to it and, initially, my reaction was, ‘well, if he can’t play for the club, let’s close the club’,” Sim told the newspaper.
He said he thought the situation was unfair given Goodwillie had played for Clyde for several years as well as having been their captain, winning player of the month awards and performed coaching duties.
The businessman said that he believed in “forgiving but not necessarily forgetting” and said that other senior figures at the club had backed the decision to sign the controversial striker.
“I don’t think the board did anything wrong,” he added.
“In retrospect, it might have been easier to do things differently. But I back my people, not Val McDermid or anyone else.”
Goodwillie has not played a professional game since the deadline day move, with Raith continuing to pay his wages along with a contribution from Clyde.
The player is unable to sign for another club until after the end of the season and Sim said Goodwillie does not want to play for another Scottish team but will continue his career elsewhere.
Asked about Goodwillie’s victim Denise Clair, Sim said: “I am sorry she went through what she went through.
“I have sympathy for her. Both of them have paid dearly. If I could help her, I would, just as I’d try to help him.”
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