Carl Hall interview: Relegated Dons ‘built on strong foundations’

Carl Hall
Carl Hall

Doncaster RLFC still entertain hopes of one day playing in the Super League despite the fact they will be plying their trade in League One next season following relegation.

So claims chief executive Carl Hall, who says he understands fans’ disappointment after the club finished well adrift at the foot of the Championship table - despite finishing fourth last season.

But he argues that the Dons’ situation is a lot healthier than it would have been in similar circumstances in the past.

“Normally when you are not doing well on the field you aren’t doing well off it either,” he said during an exclusive interview at the Keepmoat Stadium.

“However, we are doing really well off the field and the club is financially secure which has rarely been the case over the years.”

But for Hall, who played for the Dons during a career which also saw him turn out for some of the top clubs in the game as well as playing Test rugby for New Zealand, there would be no Doncaster side.

He recalled that fans in those days had no grumbles at playing in rugby league’s third tier.

“I remember people saying that they didn’t care what league we were in as long as they had a club to support,” he said.

“Some people seem to have changed their tune very quickly since we’ve been relegated, probably because we’ve enjoyed some fantastic success in recent years.

“But at least they will always have a club to support due to us being taken over by Doncaster Rovers and becoming part of the Club Doncaster project.”

Hall says that it both puzzles and frustrates him that some supporters of both Rovers and the Dons remain suspicious of the Club Doncaster concept.

“Can I make it clear that there is no hidden agenda with Club Doncaster, which I fully support, and share the vision,” he said.

“I’ve seen the plans and predict it will go through the roof in the future.”

Hall, who says he has learnt much, and is still learning, about running a professional sports club since he started working under Gavin Baldwin, is confident of a return to winning ways next season.

“We have been relegated and we need to regroup and start again,” he said.

“We are looking at being very competitive in League One next season with the aim of getting back up to the Championship at the first attempt.

“As was the case with Paul Cooke and Tony Miller before him, recruitment is all in the hands of head coach Gary Thornton.

“Gary, who I feel is the right man for the job, has full say on who he wants to bring to the club and my only role is to make it happen if I can and to decide whether the players fit into my budget.

“Due to relegation our central funding from the RFL will be just £75,000 this year whereas it was £200,000 this year.

“On top of that we have a budget from the owners which is very close to what we asked for.

“Obviously, like any coach in his position, Gary would like a bit more and that is why I’d like to re-energise the Dons For Life scheme whereby supporters and local businesses put what they can afford in each month.

“I know some people will ask why they need to do that now we have rich owners but it’s not fair to keep going back to ask for more and as a club I feel we should still try and stand on our own two feet whenever we can.

“Although it would be nice to be able to give Gary extra funds, a successful team isn’t always just all about money – there are other factors.

“We paid just winning and losing pay, because that was all we could afford, the year we won the League One title in 2012.”

n Centre Liam Welham dominated the end-of-season awards night.

Welham, one of the current squad to have signed contracts for the 2016 season, picked up the Back of the Year award, Supporters’ Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and the club’s Player of the Year.

n The Dons have signed Warrington winger David Foggin-Johnson and hooker Danny Hirst, as well as young Leeds Rhinos loose-forward George Milton, a former England U18 international.

n Doncaster bring the curtain down on their season at Whitehaven on Saturday (6.30pm).