This weekend’s Fife derby is the biggest for years. Well, almost two years. Back then, two seasons ago, the Pars triumphed against Raith Rovers with the First Division title and promotion to the SPL at stake. This time, after being voted out of the SPL in favour of a Dundee side who didn’t win promotion on the park, the Pars face Cowdenbeath in a First Division relegation battle brought about by the 15-point penalty rightly imposed on DAFC for entering administration. The contrast between the two games could hardly be more stark.
In Dunfermline we now know that our First Division champions were being paid with money DAFC could not actually afford to spend. The shine has also come off Jimmy Calderwood’s successful spell too as that appears to be when the overspending started. The club and the stadium became engulfed in former bank boss Gavin Masterton’s failing business empire, propped up by bank debt and unbelievably generous loan terms no one who didn’t formerly boss the bank could expect to receive. For the last six months or more the whiff of corruption has been growing stronger at East End Park. An investigation into exactly how Dunfermline Athletic ended up in financial crisis and administration is now being demanded by the fans, who, as ever in Scottish football, are the victims of the fat cats’ wheeling and dealing. The question, where has all the money gone, is looming large.
Other questions on the horizon include, what was the bank thinking offering a massive £12m repayment-free loan on a stadium worth only a tiny fraction of that amount, and will the bank now do the right thing and give the stadium back to the fans currently trying to save the Pars? The bankers who have replaced Gavin Masterton and his cronies must know it’s the right thing to do.
The biggest question of all of course is, will the ongoing Save the Pars campaign succeed? With majority shareholder Masterton handing his shares over to the administrator no Pars fans need now fear their money going into a ‘black hole’ of Gavin Masterton and club chairman John Yorkston’s making. The ‘black hole’ debate is over and the fans who couldn’t see the ‘black hole’ for Masterton and Yorkston’s smoke and mirrors are now staring into the abyss along with the rest of us who spotted the true extent of the problem months ago.
The phrase “short-term cash flow problem” will forever haunt the message boards of dafc.net, the football discussion forum where the moderators didn’t want a discussion, not about the club’s plight at least. They actively supported Masterton’s smoke and mirrors propaganda. It’s taken far longer than necessary to unite the Pars fans, although now that it’s happened at least they’ve picked an appropriate name for the new fans’ group, it’s simply called Pars United. All other groups have either disbanded or have subscribed to the one shared Pars United vision.
What I’m leading up to in my own clumsy way is that no one now has any ‘political’ reason to neglect the Pars. The 11,500 who packed East End Park two seasons ago for the title-decider against Raith Rovers and the thousands more who flocked to Hampden for three, now sadly tarnished, cup finals must try to get along to East End for both the Cowden game and the last home game of the season on Saturday 4th May against Airdrie United. It’s absolutely critical.
Two weeks ago at home against Hamilton Accies a young Pars team decimated by redundancy lost 2-3. I was hoping for a crowd of 5,000 but it fell just short of that. Now the Pars under-20s and the few remaining first team regulars need to beat Cowdenbeath, whose players have been enjoying some comical internet banter at the Pars’ expense, and I’m hoping for more than 5,000. Perhaps even 6,000 if the Cowden fans turn out in substantial numbers to see their team put the young Athletic whizz-kids to the sword.
I can’t put it too strongly. This game has everything; an inexperienced Pars side fighting for the club’s very survival, bitter rivals with a rare chance to put one over on the local ‘big’ team (albeit shrinking fast), a relegation battle, and hopefully a rejuvenated, loud, excitable and united Pars support capable of making East End Park great again.
At the Hamilton game the fans entertained the fans with a pre-match musical extravaganza in The Gallery at East End. Local legend Marvyn Stewart, a team of volunteers, and under-paid DAFC staff, worked tirelessly for the cause serving food and drink, whilst Stevie Agnew headlined the acts on stage. The Gallery will be open again this weekend. Come all ye Pars; faithful, joyful, and hopefully, triumphant!