“Raith Rovers 2007” – Are We There Yet?
Back in October 2004, several months before we kicked off what was to eventually become the Reclaim The Rovers campaign, we organised an event called “Raith Rovers 2007”. This was a fans’ forum that aimed to find out just where members of the Rovers’ community wanted to see their club going over the next 3 years. We had a couple of great speakers from other Trusts present to give some ideas of what could be possible – Phil Tooley from Chesterfield and John Alexander from Clyde – but the focus was firmly on finding out what direction our members and potential members wanted the club to take so that we as a Trust could help it get there.
The full report of the event can be found here, and in this article I’ll give my view on how close we are to the aspirations we set out back in 2004.
Where did we want to see Raith Rovers in 2007?
Still in existence, with the Trust having a greater say in how the Club is run, and implementing best practice
We’re definitely there on the first two! Through the Raith Forum and our representative on the club’s board we’re very well connected to the club now, and Alex Condie has a direct say in the decision-making process down at Starks Park. There’s probably more to be done on the third aspiration, but the necessity of fighting fires in order to put the mistakes of the previous regime right will have taken precedence over implementing best practice since the takeover.
With a consistent and united board, who have credibility in the local community, and has been restructured top to bottom
Since the takeover the board have gone through a number of changes, and are currently operating without a chairman. This is an unusual way for a board to work, but the indications that we get from Alex and in conversation with other members of the board is that they are making decisions constructively together and at this time do not need someone to make the casting vote on decisions.
While some of the board members were part of the previous regime, there are some notable absences! The two board members who were the focus of Rovers fans’ dissatisfaction prior to the takeover, Colin McGowan and Alex Short, are no longer connected to the club and this in itself has improved the community’s perception of the club.
The vision we put forward in the Reclaim The Rovers business plan for the football club board is further from reality. We envisaged a board structure where each member was selected on the basis of their skillset, and while some members have been brought in for their expertise in specific areas (most notably the club’s new chairman David Somerville who has a strong background in community development work) the majority of board members, including our own representative, are there to represent the investment of each of the partners in New Raith Rovers. Our vision was that there would be separate boards for New Raith Rovers (with membership based on investment) and Raith Rovers Football Club (with membership based on skills and capability), but as the company structure is more complex in practice, as explained in the New Raith Rovers FAQ article, the separate boards have effectively collapsed into one for practical reasons.
With a fair and rational recruitment policy
Obviously the details of the club’s recruitment and selection process are confidential between Raith Rovers and the candidates that apply for any position. From the outside looking in, what we can say is that the two major recruitment decisions (to appoint Craig Levein, and then John McGlynn in his place) should give us more confidence in the way the club is going about it’s business than if we had appointed another nightclub DJ as manager!!!
With a good youth development system
One to be proud of. Raith Rovers now have teams operating in five age groups, and although results are not the primary goal in youth development the under-17 side’s capture of the Manchester Easter Tournament in 2006, followed by their triumph over Alloa in the SFL League Cup final, was great news for all Rovers fans.
Time will tell whether the youth set-up will deliver players who can be future Raith legends, but the signs are promising.
With its identity re-established within the Rovers community
As mentioned earlier, Raith Rovers now have a community group who have implemented various initiatives such as hospital visits, a series of clean-up days at Starks Park, and the introduction of “Raith TV” on the club’s website just before Christmas. Each of these projects aim to improve the club’s connections with the community, and David Somerville who was previously involved in this group was invited to join the board of the club in mid 2006, which is a powerful demonstration of the board’s recognition of this group’s work.
Operating in a transparent manner
As with the recruitment policy, this is a tough one to judge. To make the most of a glassy metaphor, we do have a window into the boardroom in this regime; and although, like every director of the club, Alex has to keep some matters in strict confidence, we have no reason to believe that there is any unnecessary condensation forming on this window!!!
With better financial accountability
Accountability and transparency are very closely related – transparency is about openness when decisions are being made, and accountability is about facing up to scrutiny after a decision has been made and not playing the “a bigger boy did it and ran away” card. Fortunately this principle hasn’t been tested yet and won’t be until such a time when things don’t go to plan. With the new regime having inherited a club in dire financial straits which will take a significant amount of time to negotiate out of, we should be realistic in expecting a few blips along the way, and this is the time when we will genuinely see whether the stewards of the club are prepared to be accountable for their decisions.
With a solution to the stadium issue
The threat of the football club being evicted from Starks Park has abated since 2004, as the ground is now owned by those who put their money into the club to effect the takeover. The ground is still owned by a separate company, in no small part due to the personal guarantee that is required by the bank as additional security on their loan. The club continue to pay ground rental as before, and while the tenancy is more secure than before this is a source of some concern as it is one of the larger items of expenditure in the club’s accounts. Starks Park has limited potential for use as anything other than a football stadium as space for additional facilities on site is in short supply, so this issue will be one we face for the foreseeable future as the club looks to augment it’s income from 90 minutes of football twenty times a year with additional revenue streams.
With a sensible and realistic pricing structure
A major change to the pricing structure for season tickets was made in the last close season, with options introduced to appeal to a wider range of fans’ needs than ever before. One of the most significant changes was the introduction of a “kids for a quid” season ticket at £20 for primary school age children. Opinions will naturally vary on whether the prices represent value for money, and some Saturdays at 5pm it feels like the club should be paying us to be there, but steps have been taken to attract more supporters to the club.
With positive press coverage
Certainly the stories in the media connecting us with Glasgow gangsters have become a thing of the past! The club enjoys a good relationship with local media, particularly with the Fife Free Press who were an active partner in the Reclaim The Rovers campaign. Of course, being in the second division means that press coverage at anything other than a local level is more non-existent than positive, but we can be satisfied that the negative press we attracted on occasion is fading in our memories.
With a broader support
The “Raith Rovers 2007” event wasn’t the first time we had sought the opinions of the Raith Rovers support. In March 2003 we commissioned a survey of the fans (the report can be read here), which looked in part at the demographics of the fanbase. We have no subsequent hard, or even anecdotal, evidence to hold up against this, so have no way to assess the club against this expectation. The club’s efforts to achieve this objective through changing the pricing structure as mentioned previously should hopefully be moving us in the right direction, though.
Recognised as a family club
As previously mentioned, the club have strived to make a visit to Raith Rovers more affordable for families, via the reduction in season ticket prices for children and for families, and on a number of occasions with “kids for a quid” days for pay-at-the-gate supporters. There is a body of support for the introduction of a family enclosure at Starks Park, and this is a development that we would encourage the club to evaluate further.