£4m losses at stadium

The Keepmoat Stadium.
The Keepmoat Stadium.
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DONCASTER’S Keepmoat Stadium is expected to have lost £4 million by March, according to official figures.

Mayor Peter Davies fears it could lose £2 million this financial year alone if action is not take to stem the problem.

The losses, which will be unveiled officially to councillors tomorrow, include a £70,000 loss on this summer’s Westlife concert.

Concerns have been raised about the stadium’s ability to pay its bills by March 2012.

A council report reveals the financial position of the stadium management company has deteriorated since a £1 million overdraft guarantee was re-approved by the council in March this year.

That led to the council approving an additional £300,000 loans facility in June to support cash flow until the council’s options could be reviewed.

The report said: “Since then there has been a reduction in rental income and losses from the concert, which have resulted in further financial pressure on the stadium management company.

“The management accounts to September produced by the stadium management company will be revised to a forecast loss of £400,000 to March 2012.

“This forecast loss for the year is very likely to take the stadium management company to the position where it has insufficient cash to meet its liabilities.

“This is likely to occur very early in 2012.”

Forecast accumulated losses by March 31 are estimated to be in the region of £2 million, of which £1.57 million is money accumulated from March 2011.

Stadium bosses have planned to make a number of savings, which would bring the annual loss down to around £200,000 a year.

The report warns: “The fluctuation in the income and expenditure and ever tightening cash flow means there must be a prompt decision on the options appraisal and future of the operation of the stadium.”

Mayor Mr Davies said he thought a community stadium was a flawed idea in the first place and was a problem he had inherited.

He said: “The concept of a community stadium was ludicrous from day one.

“No-one should ever have put up £30 million of Doncaster taxpayers’ money with no certainty of it making a profit or even breaking even. It is beyond belief.

“Councils should not be in the business of providing a stadium for a club as big as Doncaster Rovers.

“It is a totally unacceptable situation that is costing Doncaster taxpayers an arm and a leg.”

Mr Davies is due to discuss the position with his cabinet next week. He said he is working to secure a change of control and management arrangements before the stadium management company runs out of money.

He said there are talks ongoing to try to find a way out of the current problems, and nothing was off the agenda, but the best way would be if the council could get some money back from any deal.

Doncaster Rovers have in the past expressed interest in taking on the stadium on a lease agreement.

Coun Martin Williams, from the Community Group on Doncaster Council, said: “I think the figures are absolutely shocking.

“We have had concerts there and we’ve got Doncaster Rovers playing there, and it’s making a loss. It’s unbelievable.

“If Westlife can’t make a profit there we really are in a mess. The point was it was supposed to be successful, and this concerns me greatly. A lot of taxpayers’ money went into it.

“If we can find a buyer willing to pay a good price, that would be the ideal solution. But we cannot have this albatross around our neck.”

Colin Harker, Finance Manager for the Keepmoat Stadium said: “Hosting a big concert always brings with it an element of risk. Welcoming big names to the Keepmoat Stadium has a positive impact, not only on the profile of the venue, but also of the town.

“Many businesses from across the borough benefited financially from the Westlife concert and while we were pleased with the event, it did not make the money we expected. The final figures for the concert will be discussed by Doncaster Council Overview and Scrutiny panel at the next meeting.

“There are a number of issues in relation to our financial arrangements which are unfortunately out of our hands. We have kept the council up to date about these issues and have had several meetings with the Doncaster Council finance officers.”