Raith AGM round-up: Turnbull’s tenure honoured by club

Stark's Park, Kirkcaldy. Home of Raith Rovers F.C.
Stark's Park, Kirkcaldy. Home of Raith Rovers F.C.

Recently retired Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton was bestowed with the title of Honorary Life President at the club’s AGM last Thursday.

Hutton stepped down at the end of last year after serving on the Raith board for 15 years, overseeing the club’s return to the second tier, a Scottish Cup semi-final appearance and last year’s Ramsdens Cup triumph, all while restoring financial stability to the club.

Hutton’s outspoken nature also saw him become a reluctant hero for taking a public stance against plans to fast-track Rangers back to the top flight, which saw him regarded by many as a champion of sporting integrity.

New chairman Alan Young presented him with a framed certificate, and after receiving a standing ovation from those in attendance, Hutton said: “I’m lost for words. I appreciate it and good luck to the board going forward.”

The open invite AGM, which was attended by around 50 supporters, took place in the Raith Suite and started with chairman Young announcing profits of £97,000 for the year to June 30, 2014.

He explained that the most of the profit was a result of the income generated from the live televised Scottish Cup quarter-final against St Johnstone, adding that the Ramsdens Cup run produced little extra income.

The balance sheet showed a deficit of £507,000 but Young explained that £427,000 was due to internal creditors, with only £80,000 due to the “outside world”.

“All tax payments are up to date and there is no bank borrowing,” he added. “We have costs under control.”

Young revealed that a small loss was made for the six months up to December 2014, but that a “reasonable” profit is anticipated for the quarter to March 2015.

“The final quarter financial result will depend completely on the performance on the pitch,” he explained.

Club chief executive Eric Drysdale also took the floor and revealed that the team is now using Auchmuty High School’s 11-a-side astro pitch in addition to the training facilities at the Michael Woods Centre.

“These are the best training facilities this club has ever had – better than virtually all Championship clubs of our size and smaller,” he said.

Drysdale also revealed that a Strategy Day will be held in March where the board and management team will sit down to discuss a medium to long term strategy for the club.

It was also revealed at the meeting that Stark’s Park Properties – the company that owns the stadium – is more than halfway through a 15-year loan repayment to the Allied Irish Bank.

Recently appointed Raith director John Sim, who is also the majority shareholder in Stark’s Park Properties, said he was keen to see the Railway Stand reopened, and for a safe-standing section to be introduced within the ground.

He also raised the possibility of installing a plastic pitch at Stark’s Park in the future as an ‘additional income stream’, although it was stressed that there are differing views on the board regarding this proposal.

“We need to have a development plan for the stadium,” Sim said. “Going forward is this where we want to stay? If so, what do we need to do over the next five to 10 years to bring it up to standard?”

Tom Phillips, community director, revealed that after initial teething problems the new Fife Elite Youth Academy is now in a “stable position”, and “beginning to look quite positive” with six teams containing a mix of players signed to Raith, Dunfermline, East Fife and Cowdenbeath.

He also revealed plans for the creation of a Raith community trust, to be overseen by a full-time community worker, describing it as an “important step” for the club.

“This will help get Raith Rovers’ name back into the community in a different way,” Phillips said.

First team manager Grant Murray also spoke at the AGM about moving the club forward on and off the pitch.

“Long term plans are difficult - it’s all step by step,” he said.

“When I first joined it was as 50-50 split between part-time and full-time which was difficult, but the players made it work.

“We’ve gradually got that down to just two part-time players.

“This season is the first time we’ve had a full-time physio and that has made a massive difference.

“From the outside, people don’t realise how much of an affect that can have on a squad.

“We’re trying to move the club forward but a five or 10 year plan is difficult for a club of our size.

“It’s better to change small things rather than trying to jump too far ahead.”

Newly appointed director of football, Maurice Malpas, also gave his initial thoughts on the relationship between the club and the fans.

“The first impression I got when I came here was that it’s them and us,” he said. “We’ve got to get rid of that feeling.

“Without fans players struggle, and without players fans don’t have a team to support. It’s everyone in it together.

“We’ve got to give the players a good atmosphere to work in so they are proud to play for the club.

“We want a team on the park that excites the fans, and a support that helps the team when it’s struggling.”

Malpas also reiterated that his influence in first team affairs is purely advisory, offering opinions on everything from training schedules and team tactics to scouting players.

“I’m not here to take training – I’m here to help,” he said. “The more information we can give Grant to make a decision, the better.”