DONCASTER ROVERS BELLES: Major sponsorship coup for Super League Belles

It's a deal: Belles players show off their new shirts with sponsors Stewart Groves and Hugh McAuley and manager John Buckley.
It's a deal: Belles players show off their new shirts with sponsors Stewart Groves and Hugh McAuley and manager John Buckley.

DONCASTER Rovers Belles have been living on past reputation in recent years - but all that could be about to change.

The once all-conquering Belles haven’t lifted any major silverware since completing a National Division/WFA Cup double in the 1993-94 season, and finished second bottom of the inaugural FA Women’s Super League (WSL) last season.

They have failed to make any impact in this season’s FA Cup and have failed to qualify for the knock-out stages of the inaugural Continental Cup.

They are propping up the WSL table having lost all three games played.

But the Keepmoat Stadium club are set to become a force in the game again after securing a club-record six-figure three year deal with Innovation Financial Services Limited.

The two men behind the recently-formed company, Stewart Groves and Hugh McAuley - a former professional footballer - have previously advised top footballers such as Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill as well as Harley Street surgeons.

“They are very successful people in their own field of expertise and they are also interested in football,” said manager John Buckley, who first met Doncaster-based Stewart at a social function he attended with Belles’ business manager Alan Smart - who has worked hard behind the scenes over the last six months to put the deal together - late last year.

“It’s a huge boost to the club to have them on board because we’ve lacked a major sponsor since Ben Bailey Homes pulled out a few years ago and we’ve struggled to compete financially with the other clubs at our level,” said Buckley.

“As a result of this deal we’ll be competing on a more level playing field. We still won’t be able to pay the sort of money that the likes of Birmingham are paying out, but we will be able to compete for good players again, which is obviously great news for the club.

“I’m not suddenly going to start throwing money around but if I can bring in two or three players who I think would do us a good job during the transfer window then I will - although they will have to come in on an 18-month contract because I’m already looking towards next season when I hope we’ll be competitive in all competitions.

“We’ll still be looking to try and bring girls through from our juniors because that policy has served us well and without producing our own players we wouldn’t be where we are now.

“But what I hope I will be able to do as a result of the sponsorship is to be able to keep them for ourselves and not just develop them for someone else as has happened in recent years.

“Hopefully we can reward Stewart and Hugh’s support by getting off the mark in the WSL in next Wednesday’s game at Lincoln.

“They’ve spent a lot of money and are a good side. But if we play as well as we did at Bristol I think that we can get a result.”