Cutting back to survive

Raith director Turnbull Hutton
Raith director Turnbull Hutton

RAITH Rovers will slash the wage bill for the second year running after admitting that full-time football is driving the club towards administration.

In a statement released on Monday, the board outlined plans to switch to a mix of part-time and full-time players next season, blaming the uncertainty within Scottish football, and the wider economic climate for the decision.

Rovers narrowly avoided relegation from the first division this season after finishing the campaign on a high note with three straight wins, but director Turnbull Hutton stressed that simply continuing to exist was the club’s biggest achievement.

“Saturday was a great end to the season, but behind the scenes it’s been a nightmare,” he told the Press. “The greatest triumph of the season was simply surviving as a football club.

“The model that we had in place has patently not worked and we’re getting no help from SPL and SFA, whose re-organisation plans seem to have stalled.

“The SPL can’t even agree how many teams they want in their league so what hope is there for a first division club trying to maintain full-time football.

“Going part-time was the obvious answer, but we have six players halfway through two-year full-time contracts.

“So the only sensible thing to do was revert to a mix of full-time and part-time with an agreement that we’d only be offering one-year contracts.

“Then at the end of May next year, it’s all up for grabs again with no manager, no players – and you start again. That’s not what we’d want to happen but at least it’s there as an option.”

Rovers financial troubles started at the end of last season when the board revealed that after a season challenging for promotion, the club had run up £80,000 losses.

The situation worsened when HMRC threatened the club with closure over an outstanding £40,000 tax bill, which was subsequently settled.

A supporters’ meeting was called where the club revealed that lower than expected crowds meant a similar loss was predicted for 2011-12 campaign.

The Press subsequently launched the Rally Round Rovers campaign in October, with supporters initiatives helping to raise over £10,000.

The club also formed a Members Club encouraging fans to purchase shares, however, cash-flow problems have continued, to the extent that directors have personally stumped up cash to prevent the club from going bust.

“When you see what’s going on at Ibrox administration cannot be an answer to anything,” Hutton said. “The players have always been paid, but what happens when you’re £40,000 short at the end of the month for wages? You write a cheque.

“But as soon as you put money in as a loan, it disappears like melting snow. You never get it back.

“There’s a limit to how many worthless shares a person wants – so the money is put in as loans in the hope that we’ll be selling a James McCarthy one day.”

Despite cutting back for a second successive year, Hutton remains confident that Rovers can remain competitive in next season’s first division.

“We’re looking at another two full-timers on top of the ones we’ve already got signed and that would give you the spine of a team,” he said.

“Our young players will ensure there’s enough options for training and you then have a handful of others coming in two nights a week part-time.

“We know it works, we’ve been there before. We’re slowly turning the clock back to the type of set-up we had in the second division.

“But with McGlynn’s experience, work ethos and contacts, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be competitive in this league.”