A week of hate, abuse & threats

Eric Drysdale Raith Rovers

Eric Drysdale Raith Rovers

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UP until last week, a day in the life of Eric Drysdale did not involve receiving advice on his personal safety from counter terrorism officers.

But all that changed the moment the Raith Rovers director became embroiled in the crazy world of the Old Firm.

Last Tuesday Ally McCoist, the manager of Glasgow Rangers, demanded that the names of the three men who sat on an independent, and supposedly anonymous judicial panel, which handed down a year-long transfer embargo fine to the administration-hit club, be made public.

Drysdale’s name, and the names of the two others, were subsequently leaked the following day, and once out in the open, it did not take long for the vilification to start.

By Wednesday afternoon, a phone call of a threatening nature had been answered by office staff at Stark’s Park, who subsequently contacted the police.

Drysdale himself had also received a number of hate emails and silent messages on his phone, while internet forums were awash with insults, threats and abuse.

A co-ordinated effort was quickly launched across three separate police forces – Strathclyde, Tayside and Fife – to offer advice and protection to a man who just a few hours earlier had been going about his normal daily routine like any ordinary person.

Banking

Speaking as the events unfolded, Drysdale told the Press: “I was asked by the SFA to sit on the judicial panel due to my knowledge of football finances through my work in the banking sector.

“I have also been directly involved in football for 13 years through my role as a director at Raith.

“I cannot comment on how the panel came to its decision as this information will be released by the SFA, but it’s fair to say we were following a very detailed set of protocols.

“It never entered my mind that I would be caught up in a situation like this because there was an anonymity agreement in place.

“I knew the subject matter was obviously high profile – but I didn’t think that it would result in any profile for myself.

“I don’t know how my name was leaked but I have certain feelings as to how it might have come about – but I can’t to go into that. It left me very annoyed.

“There is a significant risk that other members of the judicial panel may now reflect of these events and decide they do not want to risk that level of public profile.”

As well as encountering the irate reaction of Rangers fans, Drysdale also found himself caught up in a media frenzy.

On Wednesday, a national newspaper contacted him to say that he was being named in Thursday’s edition as one of the ‘Hampden Three’.

He told them he had “no axe to grind” against Rangers and, having spoken out, decided to work from his home in Perth on Thursday.

Speaking to the Press last Thursday, Drysdale said: “My wife does not keep well and can’t handle these things at all, so it’s just as well I am at home because the doorbell has just gone - it’s the Sky News cameras.”

Drysdale’s association with Raith, where he has served as a director for 14 years, also unwittingly dragged the Kirkcaldy club into the firing line in the build-up to a hugely important match against Queen of the South.

Rovers vice-chairman Turnbull Hutton released a statement stating his support for Drysdale, and revealed that the club had incurred extra costs to beef up security.

Speaking after Saturday’s match, which saw a larger than normal police presence inside Stark’s Park, Hutton said: “We incurred extra costs of £4000 as a consequence of this fiasco and the board is currently considering who it sends the bill to.

“Why should we stump up for the cost of collateral damage from a situation that does not involve or concern us?

Plastered

“We’ve had aspects of our club finances plastered all over Rangers’ websites, with personal stuff aimed at Eric that was wholly unacceptable. It makes you despair for Scottish football.

“We’ve also received a variety of emails direct to the club - more anti than pro.

“However, the encouraging thing is the amount of correspondence we’ve received from other clubs to say that the statement we released was absolutely spot on.”

Hutton was also scathing in his criticism of the Scottish FA’s handling of the affair.

He said: “Having had their three-man panel outed, the SFA managed to sit on its hands for two days and do nothing.

“There was no statement to take the heat off these guys. They were hung out to dry.

“It was left to this football club to release a statement in order to protect ourselves and get some clarity.

“The SFA’s inability to grasp a situation that was of their making was staggeringly deficient. Scottish football deserved a far better response.”

Drydsale has been advised against speaking further on the matter, but he wished to thank all those who have offered him protection amid the most stressful week of his life.

He added: “I am very grateful for the support of the Raith fans, the board, and the office staff – in particular Bob Mullen, Bob Farmer and Turnbull Hutton – for the efforts they put into ensuring that Saturday passed off without incident.

“The result against Queen of the South was far more important than any temporary problems encountered by myself.

“As a club, we now just want to get back to business as usual, and begin our preparations for next season.”