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by Margaret Taylor
29 April 2022
Comment: Playing professional football  should be a privilege, not a right

Many Raith Rovers fans were outraged when owner John Sim tried to bring rapist David Goodwillie to Stark's Park

Comment: Playing professional football should be a privilege, not a right

John Sim really doesn’t get it, does he?

Just a few short months after the owner and chairman of Raith Rovers FC was forced to drop his ‘star’ signing David Goodwillie, the Thailand-based businessman appears to have repented his repentance.

Though Sim and his board lauded the player’s goal-scoring abilities when they attempted to bring him on board in January, the fact a civil court had ruled Goodwillie to be a rapist in 2017 meant others were less than impressed with the hire.

Superfan and shirt sponsor Val McDermid ended her lifelong association with the club, the ladies team broke away to relaunch as McDermid Ladies, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed that a ‘fit and proper persons test’ should be considered for footballers.

After initially doubling down, Sim eventually conceded, handing Goodwillie back to Clyde FC – where he has played since leaving Plymouth Argyle “by mutual consent” in 2017 – and saying he’d learned “a hard but valuable lesson”.

Yet here we are less than three months later and Sim has given an interview to The Courier in which he decried the outcry, indicating that his gut reaction had been to ruin Raith Rovers for everyone rather than face up to what Goodwillie had done and he had apparently condoned.

“I’m appalled by the reaction to it and, initially, my reaction was, ‘well, if he can’t play for the club, let’s close the club’,” Sim told the newspaper.

It is hard to fathom such a response at the best of times, given that the ‘he’ Sim is talking about has shown no remorse in the five years since Lord Armstrong ruled he and fellow footballer David Robertson “took advantage” of a woman who “was vulnerable through an excessive intake of alcohol” and “each raped her”.

That Sim chose to air that response even after having time to reflect – and in the week before MSPs gathered to debate a DC Thomson-titles’ investigation into misogyny in Scottish football – is mind-boggling. 

There is a certain irony that Sim chose to give his interview during Easter, Passover and Ramadan, when observers of three of the world’s major religions were gathered in ceremonies of self-reflection and forgiveness.

The fact that Goodwillie had played for Clyde for several years, served as that team’s captain and performed coaching duties meant, Sim said, that he was able to go into the deal with his belief in “forgiving but not necessarily forgetting” intact. Talk about failing to read the room.

It’s certainly true that nobody deserves to be forever defined by their past and even the most awful of actions can, and oftentimes should, be forgiven. But there needs to be some kind of expiation; refusing to acknowledge what you’ve done or the impact it has had hardly meets that mark.

If David Goodwillie had shown even a small amount of contrition for what a court of law ruled he had done, the whole letting bygones be bygones thing might have been a little easier to swallow.

Then again, if David Goodwillie had shown even a small amount of contrition for what a court of law ruled he had done, he wouldn’t keep pursuing a privileged career where he should, by definition, be seen as a role model for countless girls and boys.

Goodwillie’s co-accused David Robertson had the good grace to retire from professional football, and so from public life, almost as soon as the ruling against the pair was issued.

John Sim would perhaps do well to reflect on that.

Read the most recent article written by Margaret Taylor - Political journey: An interview with Gillian Martin

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