Nostalgia 2005: The fight to reclaim Raith Rovers

Raith Rovers forced to find a new ground, Stark's Park demolished with houses built in its place on Pratt Street.

Friday, 23rd March 2018, 1:29 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd March 2018, 1:33 pm
Mission acomplished: The day the campaign suceeded (Pic: Fife Free Press)
Mission acomplished: The day the campaign suceeded (Pic: Fife Free Press)

This was a threat that was very nearly a reality when the Kirkcaldy club found itself in a state of utter chaos in 2005.

The 2004/05 season had been a wretched one and was set to finish with relegation from the old Division One.

It had begun with the team under the stewardship of Claude Anelka, a man who quickly proved to be out of his depth and resigned after only eight games which had resulted in a record of one draw and seven defeats.

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Former Rovers forward Gordon Dalziel took over the hot seat but the rot had well and truly set in and he was unable to turn the club’s on-field fortunes around and Division Two beckoned.

Off the field things weren’t much better. The fans directed their ire towards director Colin McGowan, who was instrumental in appointing the hapless Anelka to the manager’s hot seat.

McGowan, in tandem with fellow director Alex Short, announced their intention and desperation to sell the club once a buyer could be found, and in March 2005 it was announced that Kirkcaldy businessman and lifelong Rovers fan Jimmy Miller would buy the pair out and take control of the club.

However, on the advice of his lawyers, Miller pulled out at the last minute. This was too much for McGowan who snapped and in an astonishing interview with the FFP in June, railed against the club, the fans and threatened to bulldoze Stark’s Park.

Reclaim The Rovers campaign. Kirkcaldy High Street, June 2005.

“I am sick and fed up with this football club,” he said.

“I want rid of it and I don’t want to bother with it anymore.

“I’m hoping the community can come forward and buy me out, but I’m not prepared to just hang around any longer.

“If the people of Fife want this club why don’t they come forward and show it? Where is the business community?

“Do they not want this club?

“It seems to me that there are a lot of people only interested in talking about doing things and not actually doing them with this club.

“It’s really getting to the stage where I think I will take out an advert in the national press saying ‘Debt free football club in Fife for sale for £580,000’.

“This club is now debt free and still the community has not come forward.

Reclaim The Rovers campaign. Kirkcaldy High Street, June 2005.

“We have sold 53 season tickets so far. I don’t think that’s a club where the community and the fans love it.

“At the end of the day demolition warrants and building warrants can all be applied for.

“I’m like any other landlord, and what does a landlord do if they don’t get paid? They evict their client.”

The response was swift and that same month the FFP-backed ‘Reclaim The Rovers’ campaign was launched with a march in Beveridge Park led by former players Ronnie Coyle and Iain Ferguson to which hundreds of fans turned out in support.

The aim of the campaign was to raise £100,000 to allow the fans a place on the board and help save the club.

Fundraising started in earnest with a variety of events taking place across town such as the inaugural Rock The Rovers.

Come September though, and an impatient McGowan made another threat, this time claiming he would have to sack players in order to save money, but finally, on Friday, December 30, after months of intensive negotiations and furious fundraising, it was announced that the New Rovers consortium had raised enough funds to allow it to take over from McGowan and Short, becoming Scotland’s first community-owned club.