Scottish football club Raith Rovers is facing outrage from fans and from within its own organization for signing striker David Goodwillie, who in 2017 was ruled in a civil case to have raped a woman along with a former teammate.
Raith announced it had signed the 32-year-old Goodwillie on Monday to a contract until the end of the 2023-24 season.
Goodwillie had been with Clyde and other teams since the 2011 incident.
In response to the criticism the club faced for the signing, Raith Rovers released a statement which said in part: “Please be assured that as a community football club we fully acknowledge this signing has divided opinion amongst our loyal fans and commercial stakeholders; we aim to rebuild that trust.
“While acknowledging the gravity of what happened ten 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.”
But the signing is having negative effects within the organization and the wider world.
Tyler Rattray, captain of Raith Rovers’ ladies’ team, has announced her intention to quit the club.
“After 10 long years playing for Raith, it’s gutting I have given up now because they have signed someone like this and I want nothing to do with it!” Rattray said on Twitter. “It was good being captain of Raith while it lasted.”
CNN has attempted to contact Goodwillie and David Robertson – another player involved in the cases – for comment via the Scottish Professional Footballers’ Association.
Ex-Scotland international Goodwillie and Robertson, who has since retired, were ordered to pay £100,000 ($135,000) in damages and ruled to be rapists in a civil court case in Scotland in 2017.
Denise Clair, who previously waived her right to anonymity, sued Goodwillie and Robertson civilly. Goodwillie was charged with rape, but several months later, prosecutors announced they would not pursue the case. Robertson was never criminally charged but gave statements to prosecutors as a witness.
The Scottish justice system deemed there was insufficient evidence to bring the case to court and the charges against Goodwillie were dropped, though the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority determined Clair had been raped and awarded her $14,868.
Clair alleged she was raped at a flat in Armadale, in West Lothian, after a night out in Bathgate in January 2011. Both men admitted in court that they had sexual intercourse with the woman, but that it was consensual.
But the presiding judge in the civil case – Lord Armstrong – was highly critical of the two players’ evidence and determined that the players took advantage of her when she was vulnerable after an excessive intake of alcohol.
“Because her cognitive functioning and decision-making processes were so impaired, (she) was incapable of giving meaningful consent, and that they each raped her,” he wrote.
Goodwillie said at the time he was devastated by the judge’s opinion.
“I have spent the last six years and every penny I have fighting the allegations against me … Over two days in the witness box I spoke honestly and truthfully,” he said, in a statement.
“I am struggling to understand why the judge has discounted my evidence …”
It was the first civil rape case of its kind in Scotland. An appeal by the pair was dismissed later in the year.
Crime writer Val McDermid, who is one of Raith Rovers’ most famous fans, has said she would be canceling her shirt sponsorship of the club, which plays in the second tier of Scottish football.
“I have this morning ended my lifelong support of Raith Rovers over their signing of the rapist David Goodwillie,” she said on Twitter. “I have cancelled next season’s shirt sponsorship over this disgusting and despicable move. This shatters any claim to be a community or family club.”
As well as the shirt sponsorship, McDermid has a stand named after her at Raith’s Stark’s Park stadium.
“Goodwillie has never expressed a shred of remorse for the rape he committed,” added McDermid. “His presence at Starks Park is a stain on the club. I’ll be tearing up my season ticket too. This is a heartbreaker for me and many other fans, I know.”
Hannah Bardell, the SNP MP for Livingston, said: “Truly appalling decision Raith Rovers. Respect to your fans calling this out. You should listen to them and rethink.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Rape Crisis Scotland said: “Fundamentally – though it seems Raith FC do not agree - women’s lives are more important than men’s talent or careers.
“Footballers are role models – particularly for young people – and it’s not okay to have someone in this position who has been found by a senior judge to be a rapist.
“We wonder whether those who took this decision thought for a second about how it may look or feel to survivors to have to watch someone judged to have committed rape be celebrated and applauded.”