An Opportunity To Shape The Future of Raith Rovers Football Club?

Our chair, Alan Russell, joined K107 FM’s Saturday Sports Show yesterday to talk about the recent developments at the football club, and to share our perspectives on what might happen next – including whether there might be a possibility for greater fan engagement or even a transition towards supporter ownership.

Listen to the show here:

December’s announcement that the football club’s owner was in negotiations with new investors did not come as a surprise to us. We have been in regular contact with John Sim over the last year, and we were aware that this was one option open to him. However we were taken by surprise by the speed at which things were moving.

Ultimately that particular deal looks like it is off the table, but John Sim has been very clear about the need to bring in new money and new expertise. Perhaps this moment might have come sooner – during the pandemic the club enjoyed a remarkably profitable period, benefitting from government support, financial distributions from the football authorities, and phenomenal support from the fans despite our enforced absence from the stands. However the financial results in these two years stand in stark contrast to the norm – the club has posted losses in almost every other year recently, with a six figure gap between revenues and costs as standard.

The current business model is not working – no business can withstand sustained losses forever. The club’s current budget shortfall is of its own making, it is a choice, and it can be reduced – either by generating more revenue or cutting costs.

Every football club aspires to play at the highest level as possible, and Raith Rovers are no different. The current custodians of the club aim to take the club to the Premiership, and believe that financial stability would be assured if this ambition was achieved. We believe that this ambition is un-costed and un-tested; any club reaching this level without a significantly larger fanbase than ours seems to exist at that level precariously. Historically, Raith Rovers have spent the majority of their existence at our current level – i.e. at the lower end of the top half of the senior leagues. Without a dramatic transformation in our status this is likely to continue… and there appears to be little prospect of the club operating sustainably at this level.

The club’s invitation to potential investors is a short-term sticking plaster on a long-term wound, and we believe that a change of owner will merely postpone the inevitable unless a change in mindset accompanies the change in ownership.

We have offered the club a path towards stability and sustainability, building on the experience of seven other SPFL clubs who have entered community ownership. There are choices to be made along this path, and lessons to be learned – both positive and negative. We are perfectly positioned to chart a path that suits Raith Rovers, with this wealth of experience to guide us. We have had some good conversations with John Sim during the last year in particular; he seemed open to the possibilities but ultimately has entered negotiations with other private parties rather than choosing this as his preferred way forward. That is his right as owner of the football club, but it is disappointing nonetheless.

In the event that there is not a change of ownership for Raith Rovers in the immediate future, we continue to offer this alternative. The experience of clubs such as Hearts, Motherwell, St Mirren and Greenock Morton in particular emphasise the importance of a partner to support this type of transition. Each of these clubs entered community ownership gradually (whether over a matter of months or years), with private investment as ‘patient capital’ to enable short-term stability whilst a path to long-term sustainability was developed.

Raith Supporters Trust invite the Raith Rovers community to join them in seeking a similar solution. This transitional partner could come from within Starks Park currently, from local businesses, or from individuals further afield who share our love for the club.

We believe that the best ownership model for clubs like Raith Rovers is for those with a long-term interest in the club to share responsibility for it. Fan ownership can, and does, work in Scottish football. We would like Raith Rovers to join the growing number of fan-owned clubs, learning from the experiences of those who have gone before us.

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