New Raith owner wants community club competing at highest level possible

John Sim (inset) has ambitions for the club and stadium.
John Sim (inset) has ambitions for the club and stadium.

John Sim says he has been encouraged by the inital reaction to his takeover of Raith Rovers.

Sim, along with fellow Stark’s Park Properties director David Sinton, met with supporters representatives at the stadium on Tuesday night, prior to the Irn-Bru cup victory over Brora Rangers.

A number of questions were put to the pair, and while answers were given, some were abbreviated due to confidentiality surrounding certain elements of the agreement.

Both Sim and Sinton shared with the group their vision and way forward for the club - namely for Raith Rovers to be self sustainable and to compete at the highest level.

Sim left the meeting in a positive mood. “People have been very kind and we’ve been encouraged by the offers of support,” he told the Press.

However, the Thailand-based businessman also appreciates that the hard work starts now.

“We never expected to get relegated last season, and that’s accelerated a lot of things that had been in discussion,” Sim said. “We just need to start climbing the ladder again.

“This restructure will bring some financial stability to the club but we also need to look at investing going forward.

“Currently we’re looking at an artificial surface in the next two years, so we can start to use the stadium more than 20 times a year for three hours.

“So that we can have it for community use, and for the development squad to play at Stark’s Park rather than round and about because we don’t want to damage the pitch.

“We expect that will reduce some of the costs that the club have incurred in maintaining the pitch.

“We’ve also got to work hard in improving the match day experience. Part of that is on the field, and we’re very heartened that the response to season tickets has taken us over 1000.

“We hope we can build on the crowd that was here against Stranraer last week, and overall we’re quite optimistic about the number of people who have come forward with offers to help.”

A key part of Sim’s strategy for the club revolves around opening the stadium up to the community and bringing it up to standards expected of a modern facility.

“My main motivation relates to seeing Stark’s Park as a community asset,” he said.

“Part of that revolves around having a healthy situation on the field, and getting the club to the highest level it’s possible to function at.

“I don’t think our goals are any different from the ones that we had in 2005, we just need to get on with it.

“We need to improve the facilities. I’ve never been to the ladies toilets but I’m told they are not what people would like to have.

“We need to look at taking the things that are doing well and maximising them, like the 200 Club, and getting the Raith Suite right.

“It seems to have been very successful last Saturday but perhaps we didn’t prepare enough in advance. But it’s a learning experience.

“If we start using the stadium for five-a-side football, or walking football, or children’s football, we’re going to have to do something about additional changing facilties.

“We need to look at some of the issues around maintenance that have not been kept up to date.

“The PA system needs worked on. We need to look at the best way of lighting the stadium going forward.

“We need to make sure that we have the bits joined up between the football club, in terms of the development squad, the first team, and we need to reach out to other parts of the Raith Rovers community we’ve neglected, like the ladies team.”

Much of the preparatory work for the stadium plans are already in motion with Sinton playing a more hands-on role as the Sim travels the globe on business.

Sinton explained: “We’ve been quietly doing a lot of work in the background before now, especially looking at what might be done with the stadium, and the playing surface, and how we can get more community involvement.

“We’ve been around other clubs, and I can cite Falkirk as an example. It’s bright, bustling, there’s lots of women there, and one of our aims is to make it less of an all male reserve and get more women in.

“Part of that is making the whole experience more attractive, and we’ve done a fair bit of work on that, and we’re now in a position to progress these fairly speedily.

“With regards ground improvements, we intend to set up a special task force of people to consult all the stakeholders and then get on with it as soon as possible.”

Sim also revealed that the new structure, which brings the stadium and club under one ownership, will be more tax-efficient.

“Stark’s Park Properties will hold the controlling interest in Raith Rovers so we can file a consolidated tax return, and if we make profits at SPP level we can offset that against historic losses that RRFC have made.

“We’ve had a tax inefficient structure for the last 12 years.”

While the current boardroom structure will remain in place for now, Sim revealed that he hopes to bring younger faces into the boardroom.

“What we’re hoping to do is complete the accounts for last year, and convene an AGM sometime before the end of the year, hopefully in October,” he said.

“At that time we can look at composition of the board, governance going forward, and answer any questions that shareholders may have.

“Everybody’s been very willing to continue to do what needs to be done, nobody has stood in the way of what they see as progress, but what we all accept is that, at some point, we’ve got to bring younger people onto the board with the appropriate skills and background.”