LIKE their football neighbours, Doncaster Athletic Club are set to have more control over their affairs at the Keepmoat Stadium complex from the start of next month.
“We currently have a licence agreement with Doncaster Council through the Stadium Management Committee (SMC),” said club chairman Kev Lincoln speaking exclusively to The Star.
“But as from next month we’ll have a long-term lease arrangement. The local authority will still be our landlords, but we will have more flexibility in terms of how we run the athletics complex.
“There will no be monthly rents to pay, thankfully, instead it will be a peppercorn rent but we will have to pay for the upkeep of the the stadium ourselves.
“We currently pay for the electric, which is around £4,000 for the winter months, and any future maintenance with the lights will be down to us, but we’ve already been making a contribution to costs.
“In the last couple of years, when the council and the SMC have been short of money, we have had to stand a lot of the maintained costs, which should have been their responsibility.
“For example, we had the track cleaned and marked last year and it cost £12,500 and we had to find half of it.
“We work very hard to raise money from sponsorship, use of the site, raffles, social functions and every penny we raise goes back into the club.
“We currently have use of the track, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday as our training days so most of the Doncaster schools book their athletic events on those days and obviously we charge for that but we actually come down and support the events and move the equipment and everything.
“Under the new system, we’ll also have the track on a Wednesday and possibly Doncaster Rovers and ourselves sharing the facilities on a weekend.
“Currently we have eight Sundays and there is no reason why we can’t sustain that. We also get every Saturday between April and September, but we share some of those dates with Rovers and other events.
“I’m fairly confident that we can make it work - I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. Obviously as chairman I am leading the transition and I’ve been involved in talks with Doncaster Council, probably going on 18 months.
“I’m not the sort of person to be walked over and I’ve protected our interests throughout the negotiations starting from getting Mayor Peter Davies down here in January 2011.
“I’ve had a couple of recent meetings with Doncaster Rovers’ chief executive Gavin Baldwin, who I get on very well with, because there are a lot of operational things that we want to continue with. We are just working through the process.
“I get on very well with Gavin. He is a sensible, intelligent man and he wants the partnership which we have enjoyed with Rovers over the years to continue.
“We are looking for Rovers to have one day, possibly a Friday, and to share the weekends with us and in that way they will share some of the upkeep of the pitch (in the middle of the track) with us, such as marking it out and that sort of thing.
“The pitch is also let out for American Football and the Dons sometimes train on the pitch on a night.”
A former high-ranking police officer in the town, and a more than decent road runner in his day. Kev now devotes much of his spare time, along with fellow directors, to the running of the club which has become one of the success stories on the local sports scene since moving to the Keepmoat Stadium in 2007.
“We are doing very well in the various track and field leagues we compete in and we’ve got a very active proactive road running section and we stage four events every year,” he said.
“We’ve got a great relationship with all the schools and all the primary schools are starting to come here because we go into schools and sell what we’ve got and we are very reasonable people and friendly.
“I just think it is a fantastic place; it really is. It has given so many opportunities to so many people and when I stand here on an event day and see our athletes being so successful, it gives me a lot of personal pride and makes every minute you spend trying to improve it worthwhile
“It’s a very good strategic position. It’s central, there’s plenty of car parking and good public transport. The weather is atrocious at times but you can’t do much about that.
“We’ve got aspirations and we want to have an eight-lane track within about 15 years, even though it will cost around £1m because the whole thing will have to be re-laid.
“Despite what some people have been saying, I don’t think it was a mistake to build this place (Keepmoat Stadium complex). I remember as a young cop that this area was a horrible area, rundown and neglected but look at it now.
“The licensing agreement possibly wasn’t right and wasn’t adapted to longevity, but we’ve not looked back since we moved here.
“When we first moved here we had around 120 members and 12 qualified coaches. We’ve now got 500 members and 32 coaches. We coach every athletic event and specialise in combined multi-events.
“We are also the only disability fully inclusive club in South Yorkshire. A couple of our disabled athletes have already competed in the Olympic Stadium.”