The Yorkshire Post is a strange media outlet. Billed as Yorkshire’s national paper it continues to take up a perplexing point of view when reporting news in the Ridings beyond the West. Whilst its sport correspondents pit Leeds against their county equivalents its news section has now offered Rovers as the villains in the financial concerns of the Keepmoat Stadium.
The Keepmoat Stadium is in essence a facility that was paid for by the Council for the benefit of Doncaster as a whole. It may be billed as a ‘£32million stadium’ but its more than that with that figure including the development of the surrounding sports complex as well; the athletics stadium and the Lakeside Soccer Centre. So with this in mind it seems strange to lead with the line that the stadium is ‘subsidising the running costs of a a professional football club’.
Although funded by the Council the Stadium’s management is looked after by the SMC (Stadium Management Company) which was set up by the council to run the facilities. It does so in return for an agreed portion of ticket revenue. As such the SMC, with the Council, drew up a business plan for the Stadium complex that predicted a steady profit. Within this business plan was the rent paid by the Stadium’s principle tenants Doncaster Rovers, totalling £251,000 a year.
However, rather than a profit, in just over a year in existence the stadium has instead generated a loss that is believed to already total £2.5million. As such the Yorkshire Post reports that Rovers will be asked to significantly up their rent to more than double its current figure at just under £600,000 in order to fit the requirements of a revised business plan.
Although the club may have, as the Yorkshire Post were very quick to point out, a multi-millionaire owner in John Ryan, its unlikely that they will be willing to happily agree to a doubling of their rent particular when the club has a twenty-five year tenancy agreement on the Stadium. David Morris, Rover’s chief-executive, has made the right noises in response to this curiously angled journalism, by saying the club are sympathetic to the plight of the Stadium whilst pointing out the tenancy agreement in place.
In the mean time there are key ways in which the SMC can generate more money for the Keepmoat Stadium and that is to get more use of the Stadium and its facilities. More people at matches means a higher turnover for the Keepmoat Stadium so instead of just looking at their major income brackets they need to be working with their tenants to ensure they are giving attractive packages to encourage their supporters.
Secondly they need to address the prices they charge for the public to use their facilities. If you have two groups of people paying £15 to hire a five-a-side pitch rather than one paying £25 then you’ll generate more money. The prices at the moment don’t reflect usage and if anything point to a bad business strategy. The Stadium complex has more pitches than anywhere else in the borough so they can afford to undercut their competitors rather than price out their clients.
I’ll agree with the Yorkshire Post on one fact; the Stadium project was rushed through to give weight to Martin Winter’s mayoral re-election campaign. It was effective in two ways, one in helping Mayor Winter back into power and in ensuring much needed facilities were given to the town, however the swiftness in planning meant for a far from wide-ranging business plan. Those using the stadium should not be punished for its mismanagement. Instead such things need to be addressed from a basic level upwards if the SMC is to retain any credibility amongst the people of Doncaster as well as its key business partners.