There was no sexism in Raith Rovers boardroom, says former CEO

Scotland Women manager Shelley Kerr was considered for the Raith Rovers vacancy in 2016. Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Scotland Women manager Shelley Kerr was considered for the Raith Rovers vacancy in 2016. Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The former chief executive of Raith Rovers has hit back at claims the club overlooked Shelley Kerr for the manager's job based on gender.

Eric Drysdale has refuted suggestions from best-selling crime author Val McDermid - also a Raith director at the time - that the board refused to consider the current Scotland Woman's boss for a managerial vacancy in 2016 because she was female.

Former Raith CEO Eric Drysdale (left) with Gary Locke at his media unveiling in May 2016. Pic: Steven Brown

Former Raith CEO Eric Drysdale (left) with Gary Locke at his media unveiling in May 2016. Pic: Steven Brown

In an interview published in our sister title, The Scotsman, McDermid claimed that the Raith board provided "weird excuses" for choosing not to interview Kerr, adding: "Nobody quite had the balls to say ‘we’re not having a woman’ while I was in the room."

At the time Kerr, 49, had just made history by becoming Britain’s first female coach of a senior men’s team, Stirling University, of the Lowland League.

She had previously been in charge at leading English club side Arsenal, where she won two FA Women’s Cups, and she has since guided the Scottish national side to its first Women's World Cup finals, narrowly losing the opening group fixture 2-1 to England in Nice on Sunday.

However, Drysdale, has rubbished any suggestions of sexist attitudes in the Stark's Park boardroom, claiming McDermid 'misremembered' the events that ultimately led to Gary Locke's appointment in May 2016, and that Kerr was given serious consideration.

"I prefer to deal in facts not fiction," he told the Press.

"The first of the meetings we had when looking for a replacement for Ray McKinnon produced a long list of candidates, from memory 30 or so, and that included Shelley Kerr.

"She was considered because she was doing well with Stirling Uni at the time, and that suggestion was warmly received by Val and others on the board.

"When we got it down to a shorter number to possibly interview, I spoke at some length to Shelley and she was very pleased to receive the call.

"She hadn't applied - it was just our research that came up with the name.

"She was in the throes of exam finals which meant she wouldn't be able to start a new job until August or September, whereas we were needing someone to come in during May or June for the start of preseason.

"Unfortunately the timing wasn't right but she was actively considered as one of the top 10 candidates for the position and had circumstances been different she would have certainly been interviewed for the vacancy.

"The Raith board of the time has been criticised for the appointment which followed that process, but whether you agree or disagree with it, there was no sexism involved whatsoever.

"The media coverage that has resulted from this interview has the potential to cause Raith Rovers, a club still dear to my heart, significant reputational damage, when the story is simply not based on facts."

Drysdale, now club secretary at Dundee, served on the Raith board from 1999 until his position as CEO was made redundant in August 2017.