CHIEF executive Tony Fitzpatrick admitted even he doesn’t want to be at St Mirren’s final league game of the season after the club chose to move its fans from the family stand at the Paisley 2021 stadium to give Rangers supporters a greater allocation. On the day a fans takeover of the club moved closer to fruition, St Mirren wrote to 200 season ticket holders to inform them of plans to rehouse them in the main stand for the match on Saturday, April 30. While Rangers will likely have clinched the Championship by then, it could yet be a significant day for St Mirren who could find themselves in either the promotion or relegation play-offs come the end of the campaign.

Fitzpatrick admitted he agonised over the decision before deciding to allow his head to rule his heart, believing the money raised could help fund St Mirren’s push for promotion next season. “It was a really difficult decision as myself and the directors of the club are all St Mirren supporters,” said the former two-time manager of the Paisley club.

“We took police advice into consideration but, if I’m being honest, my first reaction when we talked about giving the Rangers fans that stand was, “no way, I don’t want to do this”. But it’s not about Tony Fitzpatrick personally. You have to look at the bigger picture. For us that could bring in a lot of money – 60 or 70 grand – and that could help us get back into the Premiership. That could pay one or two players’ wages for a season.

“My goal is to have 7800 St Mirren supporters at all our games and only having to give Rangers, Celtic or whoever only 200 as that’s all we can spare. The sad fact is we haven’t got that yet. So we have to look at doing things for the club’s benefits and giving over that stand can help us financially.

“I’m not meaning any disrespect to Rangers by saying this but as a St Mirren supporter I don’t even want to be at this game. I don’t want others – whether it’s Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen or whoever – coming here to have a party in our ground. We don’t want that. So we need as many of our fans to come out to watch us. Paisley is hopefully going to be a city in 2021 and it should be all St Mirren out there.

“I can understand why fans are frustrated as I’m a St Mirren supporter myself. But until we get the place filled with our own fans every week we have to do what’s best for the football club. It’s not about Rangers, let them have their day. This is what’s best for St Mirren – getting the finance off Rangers and using it to give us a stronger squad that can hopefully take us up to the Premiership next season.”

St Mirren angered a section of their support last summer when they allowed Celtic to rebrand their stadium in green and white ahead of a series of pre-season friendlies - and this latest move has caused further frustration.

“Just seven points separate the Buddies from the relegation play-off place, and yet on the last day of the season it seems we've sold our soul for silver regardless of what the longer-term impact this may have,” said Div MacDonald of the Black and White Army fans website. “If 100 season ticket holders decide that this decision is the final straw and don't renew, we've lost recurring revenue of £25,000 every single season. All for the sake of a quick buck.”

Meanwhile, the St Mirren Independent Supporters Association [SMiSA] and former director Gordon Scott are close to completing a joint takeover of the club after reaching a verbal agreement with the selling consortium. SMiSA will now canvas its members at a meeting in a fortnight’s time to see whether there is sufficient interest among the support base to make the deal a reality.