David Goodwillie: Nicola Sturgeon calls on SPFL to take action over controversial Raith Rovers signing | Football News

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called on the Scottish Professional Football League to take action and intervene after Raith Rovers’ controversial signing of David Goodwillie.

Raith’s decision to re-sign 32-year-old Goodwillie – who was ruled to be a rapist in a civil court case in 2017 although no criminal proceedings were instructed – has generated widespread criticism.

An online petition has been set up, calling for the club’s reputation to be restored by the removal of Goodwillie, while the transfer has already seen the club lose its main sponsor, with author Val McDermid – whose name is on the club’s shirts and on one of its stands – withdrawing her support.

First Minister Sturgeon believes the signing shows there is an “awful long way to go” before zero tolerance of sexual violence becomes a reality.

“It would be appropriate for the SPFL to take action,” Sturgeon said on Wednesday.

“We have to recognise footballers are role models and young boys and girls look up to footballers so there is a responsibility on football clubs to make sure those role models are positive.

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

“I think it tells us that while we talk about the importance of tackling sexual violence and abuse of women, we have an awful long way to go to make zero tolerance of sexual violence as a reality.

“I hope Raith Rovers reflect carefully on the groundswell of opinion that has been expressed from all walks of life, but most particular from their own fans, and perhaps think again about this decision.”

Raith Rovers ‘tarnished’ by Goodwillie signing

Aileen Campbell, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Football, echoed Sturgeon’s comments and said the Kirkcaldy club had made a “badly misjudged” decision to sign Goodwillie which had “tarnished” Raith Rovers’ reputation and could have “devastating consequences” for female players.

Tyler Rattray, the captain of Raith’s women’s team, has also quit in protest, along with others at the club, while former Prime Minister and Raith Rovers fan Gordon Brown has made clear he does not support Goodwillie’s signing.

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Campbell, a former communities secretary in the Scottish Government, said Raith’s decision to sign Goodwillie had been a poor one and “sent the wrong signal, message, to society and particularly to women”.

Scottish Women’s Football has “offered support to the women’s club and the women’s team to make sure we can help them through this”, Campbell added.

Raith Rovers signed Goodwillie despite a court ruling in a civil case in 2017 that he and now retired player David Robertson had raped a woman.

The two men were ordered to pay damages of £100,000 to the woman, but no criminal charges were brought against either of them. The club has insisted the signing was “first and foremost… a football-related decision”.

In a statement defending the move, the club described Goodwillie as a “proven goalscorer” whose footballing ability will help “strengthen the Raith Rovers playing squad”.

But Campbell said: “We can’t shy away from the fact it is a privilege to work in football and football has real influence and sway, particularly over young fans, and that is why this decision feels poor.

“It does have impact. We can concentrate on the actions on the pitch, but we can’t shy away from the fact that football has huge influence off the pitch as well. We should endeavour to make sure that influence is a positive one.”

She added that the support for McDermid and Rattray – with Sturgeon praising their stance – shows “society doesn’t want to accept violence against women”.

Campbell said of Raith Rovers: “Given they have lost the support of high-profile fans, Val McDermid, that they have lost the captain of the women’s team, they have lost volunteers, they have lost fans, they have lost staff, they really do need to think about whether this has been worth it.

“It is a badly misjudged decision by the club and we as an organisation are particularly concerned about losing more women from the game, a game we have worked so hard to try to build up and to encourage more girls and women to try to take part in, that would be a devastating consequence of this.”

She added: “That’s a huge thing for a club, particularly a club like Raith Rovers. They can’t separate that societal impact away from what happens on the pitch, football has huge influence and we need to ensure that influence is there as a force for good.”

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