When Raith Rovers signed David Goowillie, a man found by a civil court to be a rapist, it was met with vocal opposition from high-profile fan Val McDermid. His signing was eventually reversed, but had the damage already been done?
Hi, Iâ€™m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today, Val McDermidâ€™s battle with Raith.
Val McDermid is a bestselling crime novelist.Â
Sheâ€™s a prolific author. Her books span across five different series, and theyâ€™ve sold millions of copies around the world.
â€śHer latest book, Cross and Burn, is the eighth to feature two of her regular characters â€“ the psychological profiler Tony Hill and his friend, the detective Carol Jordan, familiar to viewers of ITVâ€™s adaptations of her books â€“ Wire in the Blood.â€ťBBC
But Valâ€™s success didnâ€™t come from privilege. She comes from a working class family in Fife, Scotland.Â
Her father worked as a scout for Raith Rovers, and Val has been a lifelong fan of the club.Â
Her success as an author has allowed her to support the team financially with various sponsorship deals.
Valâ€™s own character is as strong as those she creates. Sheâ€™s a vocal feminist.Â
â€śI would say that what Iâ€™m writing are novels that have as a large element of them social commentary about the way we live now. It would be incredibly naive to say that these kind of crimes of violence donâ€™t exist against women. They do exist. They exist as domestic violence, they exist as date rape, they exist as as stranger violence. Women overwhelmingly are the victims of this kind of extreme sexual violence.â€ťBBC
So when Raith Rovers announced the signing of David Goodwillie â€“ a man who was ruled to be a rapist in a civil case in 2017 â€“ you can imagine how horrified Val McDermid mustâ€™ve been.
â€śHereâ€™s what she saidâ€¦Iâ€™ve ended my lifelong support of Raith Rovers over the signing of the rapist David Goodwillie. I have cancelled next seasonâ€™s shirt sponsorship over this disgusting and despicable move. This shatters any claim to be a community or family club. Goodwillie has never expressed a shred of remorse for the rape he committed. His presence at Starks Park is a stain on the club. Iâ€™ll be tearing up my season ticket too. This is a heartbreaker for me and many other fans, I know.â€ťSky Sports
Walking away from your beloved football team is not a decision thatâ€™s taken lightly.
Raith employees left their jobs, the womenâ€™s team ended all association with the club, and Raith Rovers made things worse by issuing a statement that was seen by Raith fans â€“ and the wider football community â€“ as completely tone deaf.
In its statement responding to the criticism it faced for signing David Goodwillie, Raith Rovers said that they â€śacknowledged the gravity of what happened ten years agoâ€ť but that first and foremost, this was a football related decision.Â
They added that he is a â€śproven goal scorer.â€ť
But times are changing, and purely â€śfootball relatedâ€ť decisions are becoming less and less of an option for clubs.
News of David Goodwillieâ€™s signing became political, as Scotlandâ€™s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon waded in.
â€śWhile we talk about sexual violence, misogyny, and abuse and harassment of women, weâ€™ve got an awful long way to go to make that a reality, to to make zero tolerance of sexual violence a reality. Look, I would hope Raith Rovers would reflect very carefully on the groundswell of opinion that has been expressed over the last 24 hoursâ€¦â€ťSTV
As the public pressure intensified, the u-turn became inevitable.Â
â€śIt reads like this: I firstly want to apologise wholeheartedly to our fans, sponsors, players and the wider Raith Rovers community for the anguish and anger caused over the past few days. We got it wrong. In reaching our original decision we focused far too much on football mattersâ€¦â€ťSky Sports
Whilst many Raith Rovers fans and employees were surely relieved at this news, the whole incident raises questions.
First of all, David Goodwillie had been playing for â€“ and was Captain of â€“ Scottish League One side Clyde since 2017.Â
Why had the issue not been raised before?
At the time, Scottish Parliament member John Mason said he would boycott Clyde but David Goodwillie continued to play. You also have to wonder whether the u-turn by Raith Roversâ€™ wasÂ merely in response to the sheer weight of public pressure?Â
Supporters had emailed the club back in December to strongly object to the signing. They were ignored.
There was no mention of the impact of sexual violence in the Raith Rovers statement.Â
As yet, there have been no resignations either.
Why didnâ€™t the board anticipate just how strong the reaction would be? And did the apology go far enough?Â
It seems as though the signing of David Goodwillie â€“ and the subsequent reaction â€“has highlighted that thereâ€™s still plenty to be done to change attitudes in football.Â Â
Val McDermid says that itâ€™s just the first step on a long road back for Raith Rovers.Â
And itâ€™s perhaps a journey that all of football could join them on.
Todayâ€™s story was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Gary Marshall.
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