David Goodwillie: Signing could be ‘devastating’ for women’s football

David Goodwillie: Signing could be ‘devastating’ for women’s football

by Emily Smith
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Image source, SNS Group

Image caption, Goodwillie was at Stark’s Park to watch Raith Rovers’ 3-3 draw with Queen of the South

Raith Rovers’ decision to sign David Goodwillie has been described as “badly misjudged” by the chief executive of Scottish Women’s Football.

Aileen Campbell said the move could have “devastating” consequences for the women’s game in Scotland.

Author Val McDermid said Raith Rovers’ girls and women’s teams had started to sever ties with the club.

Goodwillie was ruled to be a rapist and ordered to pay damages in a civil case in 2017.

Two Raith Rovers directors and the captain of its women’s team have resigned in protest at his signing.

Ms McDermid has withdrawn her sponsorship of the club over the move.

But the club has defended its decision, which it said was primarily based on Goodwillie’s abilities on the pitch.

Speaking to BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Aileen Campbell urged the club to reconsider its decision.

The chief executive of Scottish Women’s Football, who is a former MSP, said: “The fact the women’s club have lost their captain as a result of this is devastating.

“That would be a devastating consequence to lose women from the game as a result of this poor decision.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Scottish Women’s Football chief executive Aileen Campbell is a former MSP

Ms McDermid told BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour that she was now focusing on supporting the Raith Rovers’ girls and women’s teams, from under-10 to senior level.

She said the signing of Goodwillie had left the women’s teams “appalled and horrified”.

“They had a meeting last night and the upshot of that is, essentially, they want to completely distance themselves from Raith Rovers Football Club,” she said.

“They are currently, as we speak, having new shirts printed that don’t have the Raith Rovers crest on them.

“They are committed to playing their fixture on Sunday not at Stark’s Park, Raith Rovers’ ground, but at another ground in the town, at the Windmill pitches.”

Ms McDermid said they were also talking about changing the name of the club and were “adamant they no longer wish to be associated with Raith Rovers”.

She said she would sponsor the team’s new shirts.

Media caption, McDermid says she was given assurances that the deal would not happen

The author also said that she had been assured there was no substance to rumours that Goodwillie would join in the January transfer window.

She said she spoke to Raith Rovers’ chief executive, who told her the club had “no interest” in the player.

“Next thing I know she is negotiating his transfer, so there you go, that’s the kind of people we are dealing with here,” she said.

Ms McDermid, whose father was a scout for the club, told the programme the signing and its fall-out had been “heartbreaking” for her.

The author was the Scottish Championship team’s main shirt sponsor, but said that deal would now end this summer as a result of the signing.

BBC Scotland has asked the club for a response to Ms McDermid’s comments.

Judy Hamilton, chair of the Raith Rovers Community Foundation, said she had been shocked to learn about the signing on Monday night and believes the decision “was not risk assessed” by the club.

Image source, SNS Group

Image caption, Val McDermid has withdrawn her support and sponsorship of Raith Rovers football club

The captain of the club’s women’s team, Tyler Rattray, resigned in protest, as did directors Bill Clark and Andrew Mill and supporter liaison officer Margie Robertson.

On Wednesday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said footballers were role models and urged the club to “think again” about its decision.

“We are talking about a football player who, in a civil court, was found to have raped a woman, who as far as I am aware has never really expressed any real remorse or reflection and I think that sends a really damaging message,” she added.

Ms Sturgeon said society still has a long way to go to address issues such as sexual violence and misogyny.

She added: “I would hope Raith Rovers reflect very carefully on the groundswell of opinion that has been expressed over the last 24 hours, from all walks of life but particularly from their own fan base and perhaps think again about this decision.”

Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown, one of the club’s most high-profile supporters, also said he could not support the signing.

The statement from Raith Rovers has not gone down well.

The references to David Goodwillie’s abilities, and the underlining of the decision being about football, did little to quell the unrest that continues to grow.

If anything, it may well have made matters worse for the club. Those opposed to the signing of David Goodwillie were well aware that football was the reason.

Raith Rovers gambled on the flak being manageable. For them it was a risk worth taking.

There is some sympathy for the club’s position. Various people from within the game have told me that the fall-out is unreasonable and that football should be an outlet for rehabilitation – but none of those were willing to say so in public.

That in itself is telling. The position taken by Raith Rovers has left them publicly isolated – a situation they are willing to accept, for now.

Goodwillie, a former Scotland international, was pictured watching from the stands on Tuesday night as his new club drew 3-3 with Queen of the South.

In a statement, the club said it had signed the 32-year-old because he was “a proven goal scorer”.

It said their “foremost consideration” was “his footballing ability”.

“While acknowledging the gravity of what happened 10 years ago, as a club we fully support and encourage rehabilitation, and many factors influenced our signing. But first and foremost, this was a football-related decision,” it said.

Goodwillie’s signing for Clyde in 2017 also attracted criticism, but the club defended its decision and said people should be allowed to rebuild their lives after mistakes.

Clyde supporter Fin McKay contacted a phone-in on BBC Radio Scotland’s Mornings programme to praise Goodwillie’s contribution to the Scottish League One club.

Image source, PA Media

Image caption, David Goodwillie joins Raith Rovers after five years at Clyde

Mr McKay said: “He had been an absolute role model at Clyde, an exemplary professional. No issues with him whatsoever.

“The abuse that he gets, or he did get initially when he joined Clyde, from other fans is the worst abuse I have ever heard any footballer get on any subject, ever. Absolutely disgusting.

“And he got it regularly and not once did he react to it, apart from scoring goals and celebrating.”

Goodwillie never faced a criminal trial over the rape accusation after prosecutors said there was not enough evidence.

Denise Clair, who waived her right to anonymity, said she was raped by Goodwillie and another player in 2011 after a night out.

Both Goodwillie and Dundee United player David Robertson accepted that they had sex with her but maintained it was consensual.

The judge in the civil case ruled that they both raped Ms Clair, who had been “incapable of giving meaningful consent”, and ordered them to pay her £100,000 in damages.

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