EXCLUSIVE: Stark’s Park owner in Raith takeover talks

Raith Rovers director and stadium owner, John Sim, is considering an offer for the club.
Raith Rovers director and stadium owner, John Sim, is considering an offer for the club.

Raith Rovers director John Sim is in talks over a possible boardroom takeover, the Press can reveal.

Sim, who is also the majority shareholder in Stark’s Park Properties, the company that owns the ground, has held discussions with the board with a view to a potential restructure that could see the stadium and football club come under single ownership.

The Thailand-based businessman, who is CEO of global accountanty firm PKF International, currently owns 17 per cent of New Raith Rovers, the football club’s controlling company.

He is the third biggest shareholder behind Mario Caira (29%) and Turnbull Hutton Estate (21%), according to a recent index published by Supporters Direct Scotland.

Sim, a Kirkcaldy man and lifelong Rovers fan, was the major investor in the takeover which followed the Reclaim the Rovers campaign in 2005.

Responding to rumours that he was involved in a possible takeover bid for the club, Sim told the Press: “As they say there is no smoke without fire and from a Stark’s Park Properties perspective we are following events closely and have views on the best way forward for the stadium and the club.

“As yet though nothing has been decided or set in stone.”

In a detailed statement Sim described relegation as a ‘shock’, adding: “While it changes certain dynamics it did not materially affect the underlying issues.

“Since the 2005 ‘rescue’ RRFC has lost on average close to £100k per year. We do not have the exact numbers for the past season but in total to date it will be in excess of £1m.

“This was not the plan at the time. Our aim then was and remains to put RRFC on a sustainable stable financial footing.”

Sim also raised concerns over the current state of Stark’s Park, and revealed that he is investigating the possibility of installing an artificial surface next year.

“During the past 20 years little has been done to maintain the stadium far less bring it up to the standard spectators have a right to expect in this day and age,” he said.

“Rather we have seen a steady deterioration to the point where significant remedial works are required to meet basic safety standards.

“None of us want to give up playing on grass but unfortunately because of the decision taken in the past to sell the contiguous land for housing, there is little alternative but to install an all-weather surface for at least a trial period to see if we can use the stadium on a daily basis rather than for three hours on 25 Saturdays.

“We are therefore actively exploring the flexibility of laying down an all-weather surface during the 2018 close season.”

Confirming his interest in making an offer for the club, Sim added: “We are working with the RRFC board to see how we can help address the fundamental issues identified. This could result in an offer from SPP, subject to consultation with Supporters’ Groups and other NRR shareholders.

“There is no silver bullet so yet again it will need all interested parties to work together to develop a realistic plan we can implement rather than to come up with something that gathers dust on a shelf.”

Sim also revealed that David Sinton, who had an 11 month spell as Raith chairman in 2006, has joined the board of Stark’s Park Properties.

He added: “An architect has been appointed to look at stadium possibilities and discussions have commenced with suppliers of all-weather surfaces. We expect to have a series of possibilities to discuss by the end of September.”

Current Raith chairman Alan Young confirmed that discussions with John Sim had taken place.

He added: “The club deciding to stay full-time in League One makes things tricky on the financial side and we’re looking for a degree of assistance from John Sim and Stark’s Park Properties.

“One of the options he has is to look at a change in the structure. It’s something that is being looked at, but nothing is definite at the moment.”