Return of the Rovers

Ray Spiers explains some new arrivals in the Doncaster boardroom

Doncaster Rovers fans are beginning to think that the nightmare of recent seasons might be over. The morning after Channel 5’s revealing documentary on last season’s sick comedy was shown, the club announced that the “Irish consortium’s” takeover from Ken Richardson and his Dinard Trading Ltd would be completed on July 31st.

Next to nothing is known about the consortium’s backers. Their spokesman, 61-year-old Ian Green, from Burnley, described as an expert in venture capital, will be acting chairman of the board until such time as a chairman with strong local links is appointed. The company that will be taking over the Rovers is Westferry Ltd, incorporated in the Isle of Man (as was Dinard) in October 1997. In July Westferry appointed Ian Snodin as player-manager. Snodin had seen for himself at several home matches last season just how dire things were. Satisfied with assurances that the Richardson influence would be gone, he was happy to return to his first club.

There was just a handful of players waiting for him, with no physio or training ground arrangements. In tandem with former Oldham player Ian McMahon, appointed by Westferry as Chief Executive, Snodin has set about raising a side to take to Dover for the Rovers’ first Conference fixture. The fans were relieved to hear that the playing staff will be full-time. There is even a fair chance that an application for relocation to a new stadium will be with Doncaster Council’s Planning Committee by the end of August.

Unlike clubs such as Southampton and Brighton, the Rovers have a supportive local Council, which has had a site earmarked for a new stadium since the beginning of the decade. Westferry says it has people in hand who were prominent in the development of the Riverside and McAlpine stadiums. The Doncaster Dragons rugby league club will also be drawn into Westferry control and share the stadium.

Westferry’s spokesman also makes all the right noises about links with the community and about the need to cultivate the support of local businesses. Add to that a manager working without a “benefactor” picking the team, making the substitutions or issuing pre-kick-off proclamations in the dressing room via mobile phone and we should be in for a very different kind of season.

There is one cloud left in the sky, however. Hours before the takeover completion, Mark Weaver, a Richardson employee and Rovers’ erstwhile general manager, sent a fax to BBC Radio Sheffield indicating that the deal could founder, the lingering problem being that the Inland Revenue are scrutinizing all Rovers’ books for the past six years. Westferry’s ceiling will be £40,000 for clearance of any debt. Above that and it’s down to Richardson. Will he pay?

From WSC 139 September 1998. What was happening this month