Ryan to the rescue again

Lynchpin: John Ryan, celebrating Rovers League One play-off final win over Leeds in 2008
Lynchpin: John Ryan, celebrating Rovers League One play-off final win over Leeds in 2008

DONCASTER Rovers’ chairman John Ryan knows that he must attract new financial backing if the club are to entertain realistic hopes of holding on to their Championship status.

The decision by multi-millionaires Dick Watson and Terry Bramall, who have matched Ryan’s input pound for pound in recent years, to quit the board means that the Rovers’ chairman now faces the prospect of having to cover the club’s losses himself.

Both men announced their departure this week but their decisions to step down are unconnected.

Bramall, who has a number of other interests and is reportedly not as passionate about the game as Ryan or Watson, is believed to have been considering his role at the club for some time.

Watson, who had minor heart surgery earlier in the season, has been advised to step down on health grounds.

Whether after more than a decade of pumping millions of his own money into the club Ryan still has the finances, or the will, to do so remains to be seen - though the fact that he is first and foremost a Rovers’ fan means that he is unlikely to just walk away as other people in his position might do.

But for Ryan, and fellow wealthy shareholder Peter Wetzel, there would be no Rovers as we know the club today.

The two men took over the club in its darkest hour after being relegated to the Conference in 1998.

When Wetzel was unable to maintain his level of support after his business empire ran into trouble, Ryan dug deeper to help Rovers climb out of the Conference in the 2002-03 season.

Although other members of the board also contributed, Ryan continued to provide the bulk of the cash on the club’s return to the Football League after five years in his bid to deliver the promise of a return to the second tier of English football where the club had been when he first started following them in the late 50s.

But realising the higher Rovers climbed the less his money would buy, he went on record that the club would need more investment to achieve the dream of Championship football and was delighted to attract the likes of Watson and Bramall on board in 2006.

The need for other wealthy backers at the helm has been underlined in recent seasons as the budget has soared to around £8m, which far exceeds the income received from television and gate receipts and commercial activities.

Until this week the shortfall has been shared by all three major shareholders. It is not known whether Watson, who was an active No 2 to Ryan, will continue to support the club in some way even though he has stepped down from the board.

Ryan, still trying to come to terms with developments, travelled over to Doncaster yesterday for a meeting with chief executive Dave Morris.

“The meeting had been arranged before all this blew up but I would imagine that they will be discussing what has happened,” said media manager Steve Utley, who said that neither the club, nor former directors, would be making any statement on the situation until further notice.

The Star understands that there has been no board meeting since the departure of the two men and Watson’s son Andrew and daughter Sarah.