Stadium finances come under fire from councillors

The Keepmoat Stadium, Home of Doncaster Rovers, after the match against Millwall. Picture: Andrew Roe
The Keepmoat Stadium, Home of Doncaster Rovers, after the match against Millwall. Picture: Andrew Roe

COUNCIL negotiations with Doncaster Rovers over the Keepmoat Stadium have been dubbed the work of “schoolboys” by a leading councillor.

Adwick ward councillor Ted Kitchen warned this week that the authority needs to ensure it is “not taken for a ride” in any agreement made with Rovers over the management of the stadium, which was funded by £32 million of taxpayers’ money.

Urgent talks are currently under way as the Stadium Management Company (SMC), which runs the venue, has run up £2.5 million losses since it opened six years ago and a council report, presented to the Regeneration Scrutiny Panel on Tuesday, concluded that it is no longer a “going concern”.

Last week, the Free Press revealed that the council’s preferred option was to seal a deal with one of the stadium’s main users to run the venue.

Knocking it down and selling the land for redevelopment was also an option - but mayor Peter Davies has pledged this would not happen.

Coun Kitchen called the agreement - in which Rovers have a 25-year lease paying £281,000 a year - the work of Rovers’ “whizzkids”. He recommended that the council secure a “top-notch” team to ensure a “fair deal” for the taxpayer in talks about the club taking over the venue.

He added: “It’s a community stadium, it wasn’t built to make a fortune, it was built for the community and the ratepayers of Doncaster.”

Keepmoat finances also came under fire from Coun Joe Blackham, who questioned the legality of the council paying a “knowingly subsidised lease” to a private business, like Rovers.

Simon Wiles, the council’s director of finance and author of the report, denied that it was unlawful, stating that the authority was supporting the SMC - and not Rovers directly.

Resident Maurice Field also spoke out against the authority’s plans for “detailed discussions” with the stadium’s main users.

He added: “Doncaster’s taxpayers have been systematically fleeced to bail out a maladministered private business, should not the council’s financial officer have detailed discussions with the stadium’s main financial supporters - the taxpayers of Doncaster?”

Members of the scrutiny panel agreed to note the report but not to make any recommendations until a further report in May.

Rovers chairman John Ryan has said that the club were the “best people” to run the stadium.