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David Goodwillie to Raith Rovers: The inside story of money, motive and misjudgement behind shock transfer

Goodwillie to Rovers: The story of the deal
Goodwillie to Rovers: The story of the deal

David Goodwillie has finally left Raith Rovers, eight months after the signing that rocked Scottish football.

As soon as the striker, branded a rapist in civil court in 2017, put pen to paper on a two-and-a-half-year deal at Stark’s Park, the backlash began.

There were resignations, major fan unrest and criticism from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, as the world’s media turned its spotlight on Kirkcaldy.

Former chairman John Sim, who was replaced by Steven MacDonald in April, subsequently apologised for sanctioning the signing and indicated work to annul the deal was underway.

Goodwillie’s departure has now been formalised.

But how did the deal come about in the first place? On February 2, Courier Sport published Alan Temple’s inside story of Raith’s ill-fated swoop – and here’s how he told it.

The statement dropped at 10.30pm on transfer deadline day.

“The club would like to welcome striker David Goodwillie to Raith Rovers FC as a signed player on a permanent deal until the end of season 2023-24.”

In one fell swoop, the Stark’s Park club were embroiled in one of the most wide-reaching controversies in their 139-year history.

Rarely has the Lang Toun been on the lips of so many supporters, observers and media outlets across the United Kingdom — and beyond.

The club were asked for comment by a reporter from CNN on Tuesday.

David Goodwillie at Stark’s Park on Tuesday night.

Directors have resigned, sponsors have quit, volunteers are abandoning ship at an astonishing rate — more than 30 by Tuesday night — and the women’s team is seeking to cut all ties with Raith Rovers.

But just how did the most contentious transfer ever completed by Raith come about?

Courier Sport goes inside the deal.

Long-standing interest

Manager John McGlynn’s interest in bringing Goodwillie to Kirkcaldy initially emerged in December, with Falkirk — a club which has considered a move for the player on several occasions — also in the hunt.

The immediate reaction was fierce and vociferous.

The club’s shirt sponsor and celebrated author Val McDermid tweeted: “Really? Is this the message @RaithRovers want to send?”

Indeed, the notion of signing Goodwillie – branded a rapist by a civil court judge in 2017 – had been mooted when McDermid was part of the Rovers board. It was shot down.

Author Val McDermid, whose name adorns the South Stand

Her sentiment was echoed by many supporters, with supporter liaison officer Margie Robertson and director Andy Mill — both having now resigned — inundated with emails expressing opposition to such a move.

Courier Sport understands both were confident that Rovers had been spooked and the pursuit would be dropped.

Indeed, McDermid claimed on the BBC on Wednesday that Raith chief executive Karen Macartney had assured her Rovers would not sign Goodwillie (we have given the Rovers CEO the opportunity to respond to this allegation).

Five-figure swoop

Quite aside from the moral complications, the financial realities were stark.

Goodwillie was under contract at Clyde and the Bully Wee had no desire to lose their goal-scoring talisman and club captain without handsome recompense.

That concern was massively eased when Raith drew an away tie against Celtic in the last-16 of the Scottish Cup.

Rovers will receive a six-figure boost due to their 50 per cent cut of the gate receipts at Celtic Park. With the tie live on Premier Sports, that alone will account for more than £30,000.

Rovers’ Bangkok-based owner John Sim

As the final full weekend of the transfer window approached, it was made known to Raith that Goodwillie — a previously stated target of McGlynn — would be available for a fee of around £50,000.

The decision was left on the table of John Sim.

The Bangkok-based Rovers chairman, and owner of both the club and Stark’s Park, gave a firm green light to the deal.

“The belief is that this is the season for Raith Rovers to win promotion, and all the financial rewards of being in the Premiership,” an anonymous source told Courier Sport.

“It’s being driven by John Sim and, with the belief that David Goodwillie can be the difference between promotion and staying in the Championship, he is willing to risk the consequences.”

While cognisant of the likely backlash, some at the club feared the strength of feeling was underestimated and that Sim’s confidence the furore would soon die down could prove badly misjudged.

Courier Sport has reached out to Sim for comment.

The decisive vote

Talks accelerated over the weekend.

The stated fee was agreed and Macartney led negotiations.

At this point, Courier Sport has been told, more than one member of the Rovers board still had no idea the deal had been rekindled.

With the entire hierarchy of the club belatedly brought up to speed during a Monday morning Zoom call, it was put to a vote on deadline day.

A veto was still possible.

Karen Macartney at Stark’s Park

Former chairman Bill Clark and director Andy Mill both voted against signing Goodwillie.

They would resign the following morning. After Courier Sport‘s exclusive on Clark’s decision to walk away, he spoke to STV, emotion writ large on his face.

Vice-chairman Steven MacDonald, commercial director Tom Morgan, company secretary David Sinton and Sim passed the motion by four to two.

Macartney, despite serving as CEO, does not have voting rights.

Late drama

There would be one final twist. Around 6 pm, some believed the deal had collapsed.

A complication between Goodwillie and Clyde put the transfer in serious jeopardy — however, it was later resolved.

The medical and formalities were completed without a hitch, registration was submitted with the Scottish FA and the announcement was made to the world.

It would prove to be one of the most ill-judged, damaging — both financially and in term of the club’s reputation — decisions ever made by a board of Raith Rovers Football Club.

Sixty hours later, a humbling U-turn was made in the form of a statement, simply signed ‘Chairman’.

Goodwillie will never play for Raith. Tangled talks are under way regarding a way to mutually annul a two-and-a-half year contract.

Rovers will seek to build bridges and mend relationships, but a long road lies ahead.