RELEGATED Doncaster Rovers may be down but they are certainly not out.
They are set to be in control of the Keepmoat Stadium as from July 1 after Doncaster Council voted yesterday to cut their loses, reported to be over £2m, since the £32m complex opened in 2006.
Although the terms of the deal have yet to be finalised, Rovers, who will pay an inflation linked £100,000 annually to the council as well as covering the costs of repairs, look set to significantly benefit from the arrangement.
For their part, Doncaster Council will not have to keep bailing out the Stadium Management Committee (SMC).
Few Rovers’ fans will be sorry to see the demise of the SMC. A number of issues which have served to alienate fans, ranging from the parking of Supporters’ Club coaches at the ground, the price of refreshments to the cost of hiring function rooms.
The SMC, although they eventually relented, did themselves few favours when they refused to allow Rovers to use the pitch to train on the day prior to a key relegation game late in the 2010-11 season.
It would, however, be unfair to lay all the blame for problems at the Keepmoat at the feet of the SMC.
They can’t be blamed for disappointing Rovers’ crowds, particularly in the last 18 months when the club have struggled. Nor can they have predicted the worst financial crisis in living memory.
Rovers will face similar problems when they are handed the keys. They will clearly need to generate more income. One thing that they will be looking at will be utilising the stadium’s facilities and fans can expect to see a number of initiatives.
The club will start their new venture with the support and goodwill of the fans and wider public but they will have to work hard to maintain it.
One thing in their favour is that supporters will now regard the stadium as the club’s own ground, as was Belle Vue, though the local authority will still own the site.
Hopefully everyone will be a winner including the Dons, Belles and Doncaster AC.