Raith fans have had to put up with a lot in recent years. Since escaping the Second Division we’ve been pipped to promotion by Dunfermline, then watched Dundee’s financial irresponsibility rewarded as they also scraped into the SPL, not to mention losing a manager and a bus-load of key players to the top division and free agency – and yet, throughout it all, fans, players and the board have displayed the patience of saints.
Our board, management and trust have displayed commendable financial prudence and ensured, as far as possible, that the club’s future was secured, despite turbulent economic times which have already seen clubs disappear in a poof of debt and threaten more still.
Well, now our rivals’ gambles have come home to roost as the full-scale of Dunfermline’s position has become clear, with Dundee potentially following suit as they close in on an inevitable crash out of the SPL.
It would be hard to criticise any Raith fans (or board members for that matter!) displaying more than a little smugness at seeing the rivals who benefited from unsustainable cash injections finally facing the music. However, to their immense credit this is not what we have seen. Rather, we have seen the Raith organisation extend a hand of friendship to our neighbours.
While the manager will be demanding that his players not give their Fife opposition an inch on Saturday, the board room have offered the Pars considerably more.
It was announced this week that the board have graciously offered the Dunfermline Athletic Steering Group, headed up by Cllr Jim Leishman, any gate receipts from the north stand over and above 2000 attendees to support their plight for survival.
Not only is this supremely generous, it is also typically considered.
The RRFC statement read: “Dunfermline Athletic are, and hopefully always will be, our fiercest sporting rivals…. but they are also our friends, and we would like to offer our friends a helping hand in their hour of need.”
This should serve to remind us all of the extent to which our fates as sporting enterprises are intertwined, and, like other clubs, depend on bums on seats, of which there are always most on derby day. Despite a fierce competitive history, no one wants to see any clubs going under, and our neighbours’ demise would certainly be of no benefit to us.
Moreover, this gesture underlines the value of sporting, not just football, cooperation, especially in Fife. It’s a frequent accusation from pub pundits that there are “too many” teams in the Kingdom. While sustainability has undoubtedly become an issue of late, having so many independent teams in the local area should, on the face of it, encourage, rather than discourage turnout. (Here I shall gracefully body-swerve the topic of potential ground-sharing… food for thought, though.)
With the Flyers and the Rugby club, not to mention golf, snooker, tennis and, of course, Sky Sports, competing for sports fans’ attention and cash in Kirkcaldy, the Rovers are particularly susceptible to losing fans to other pastimes. This is in no small part because, for the price of admission to a First Division game a family can comfortably enjoy dinner and a trip to the pictures and still have change left over for popcorn.
However, discount entry schemes, for example reduced entry into the Flyers on presentation of a season ticket for the Rovers, have been shown to be successful in both boosting crowds in the short-term as well as in promoting the teams and attracting new supporters. Sports clubs across Fife take great pride in working together in the community, and hopefully will put their heads together like this more often.
So, while the Rovers’ support for our rivals will likely, and indeed hopefully, do nothing to defuse the atmosphere come Saturday, it will hopefully support closer cooperation in the future which will see all of our clubs not only survive, but flourish.
That said, it might well put a lid on any chants of “wee team” from the away stand!