This coming Saturday sees the nation’s second Non-League Day, a fantastic idea designed to encourage supporters of Premier League and Championship sides to support their local grassroots clubs during the International break. To acknowledge and support this great initiative we’re enjoying a non-league themed week here on Viva Rovers. Yesterday we brought you a snapshot from 2001, a great picture taken during Doncaster’s own spell in non-league ten years ago. Today, we bring you the story of just how Rovers ended up there.
The way in which Doncaster plunged out of the Football League seemingly at the whim of the town’s most notorious arsonist has been referenced regularly on these pages, but up until now we have only had words, be they ours or external articles we have referenced to tell this woeful tale. However, a recent addition to YouTube now means that we can fully relive the ridiculous nature of that 1997-98 season in video footage, whilst younger fans and those looking in from elsewhere can really appreciate just how good they have it. Arsenal fans take note… this was a club in genuine crisis.
The video featured below is an episode of the Yorkshire Television documentary series Q&A screened in the early summer of 1998. This excellent episode titled ‘Trading Places’ documents and contrasts the 1997-98 season for two of the region’s football clubs; Rovers heading out of the Football League and Halifax Town heading the opposite the way as Champions of the Conference. I’ll not lead into it any more than that as it really is a fascinating piece of television, the candour of the interviews with seasoned professional Jim Dobbin, and the youthfulness of the side which ultimately ended the campaign underlying the woeful state of the club at this point in history.
WARNING: the following videos contain candid footage of Ken Richardson and Mark Weaver… oh and some swearing too.
As a postscript, Ken Richardson was found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court in January 1999 of Conspiracy to Commit Arson relating to the fire at Belle Vue featured in the video. Richardson had hired ex-SAS man Alan Kristiansen to carry out the arson, Kristiansen undermining his ex-SAS status by leaving his mobile phone at the scene, from which a message to Richardson’s answer phone was traced. Kristiansen received a one-year prison sentence for arson, whilst his accomplices Ian Hay and Alan Cracknell both received nine-month sentences suspended for two years. Ken Richardson was sentenced to four years in prison, and a couple of days later during Rovers’ Conference match at Kettering the tannoy operator read out a message from supporters for “an absent Mr Richardson who couldn’t be with us today”, before playing Firestarter by The Prodigy.