Raith Rovers owner John Sim 'appalled' by David Goodwillie backlash - 'my initial reaction was close the club'

Raith Rovers owner John Sim has revealed he considered shutting down the club over the “unfair” backlash to the David Goodwillie signing.

By Peter Wales
Friday, 15th April 2022, 4:20 pm

Admitting he was “appalled” by the public backlash, Sim also expressed sympathy for Goodwillie as he defended the club's decision to sign him.

The former Scotland striker, who was ruled to be a rapist in a civil court in 2017, joined the Kirkcaldy club from Clyde on January 31 for a fee of around £50,000, signing a two-and-a-half year contract with the Championship side.

The move sparked national outrage, and led main sponsor Val McDermid to withdraw her support, along with a host of long-serving club volunteers, while directors Bill Clark and Andy Mill, who voted against the signing, handed in their resignations.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Raith Rovers owner John Sim (in red) watches on during the recent SPFL Trust Trophy final win over Queen of the South at the Penny Cars Stadium, Airdrie. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

The Raith Ladies team also severed ties with the club to set up on their own.

After initially doubling down, Rovers eventually backtracked with an apology and insisted Goodwillie would not play for the club before loaning him back to Clyde, who are also not playing the striker due to facing a similar reaction.

However, Raith's majority shareholder has suggested the backlash was unmerited.

"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 Courier. “I didn’t think it was fair.

David Goodwillie pictured in the stand at a Raith Rovers match shortly after signing for the club on January 31.

“The guy has been playing at Clyde for years. He’s been coaching, been their captain and won player of the month awards.

“Surely you need to move on and let the guy pick up the pieces.

“How much do you punish someone? Since I’ve been knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ve believed in forgiving but not necessarily forgetting.

“I feel for David, and I feel for his wife and daughter.”

Sim has since stepped down as chairman, replaced by Steven MacDonald, although he retains overall control as owner of both the football club and the stadium through separate company Stark's Park Properties.

“There were seven people involved in the decision-making process and I was the chairman,” he continues.

“Could I have vetoed it? Yes. But you’ve got to back your people; the management team, the CEO and the people on the ground. Whatever people may think of me, I’m not a dictator.

“I don’t think the board did anything wrong.

“In retrospect, it might have been easier to do things differently. But I back my people, not Val McDermid or anyone else."

In a curt response to the fans who walked away from the club, Sim seemed to suggest they could take their support elsewhere.

“I respect their judgement — and there are 41 other football teams,” he added.

“I’ve supported Raith Rovers all my life too, so why can’t we support Raith Rovers and accept that we have differing opinions?”

Goodwillie is under contract until 2024 and Raith are left with the costly prospect of paying him off, or attempting to sell him on.

“I think we need to think about what he wants,” Sim continued. “As I understand it, because of the strain this has put on his wife and daughter, he doesn’t want to play in Scotland.

“But he wants to play football — so he will play somewhere. At the moment, Clyde are paying part of his wages."

Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today