DONCASTER Rovers look set to be handed the Keepmoat Stadium in a £100,000 a year deal, under plans drawn up by Doncaster Council.
The council’s cabinet will make a decision next week on the scheme, which proposes that Rovers take over the loss-making venue under an agreement which would be similar to that which sees the Doncaster Leisure Trust run the borough’s leisure centres.
It would see the club pay the authority £100,000, going up each year by the RPI measure of inflation in a long term agreement.
The deal has been drawn up after talks with Rovers as part of an outline draft agreement.
It comes as Stadium Management Company which currently runs the venue looks to make further savings, which council officials warn could mean between six and eight jobs lost in the next month.
Mayor Peter Davies is keen to get the stadium off the council’s hands, because of the losses it has run-up since it opened at the end of 2006.
Over the first six years of operation it failed to make enough money to meet costs and it is estimated losses total around £2.1 million up to March 2012.
Funding from the stadium naming rights, bank guarantees, loans and grants from the Council have all been used to support the stadium management company and provide the cash to fund the losses, but in a report due to go before cabinet on Thursday, officers describe it as a continuing drain on Council finances.
The council’s director of finance and corporate services, Simon Wiles, warns the stadium’s management have not yet fully carried out all the maintenance and inspection responsibilities associated with the stadium and that there are more inspections and costs coming in the next few months, and will put money for that in an account.
He said: “It is anticipated that this sum will be £350,000 to £450,000 and that all future stadium maintenance, inspection and licensing costs will be met by the Rovers.”
At present, Rovers pay nothing to the council, but pay £281,000 per year rental to the stadium management company. That goes towards meeting the stadium running costs and still results in a loss.
Rovers would be expected to come to an agreement with Doncaster rugby league club, Doncaster Belles and the Doncaster Athletics Club on their use of the venue, and would have to agree to provide a number of community schemes at the stadium.
As it would still own the building, the council would still have to pay to insure the site.
Doncaster Rovers chairman John Ryan was reluctant to discuss the plans last night.
He said: “I can’t really say much, and I don’t want negotiations to be in the press.
“But talks are still ongoing and Rovers are keen to have a greater involvement in the running of the stadium.”
The stadium was built with £32 million of public money while Martin Winter was mayor. But the council estimates it is likely to continue to lose £200,000 to £300,000 a year under the current arrangements.
Reaction on the streets of Doncaster was supportive of the proposals.
Rovers season ticket holder Maureen Stephenson, aged 64, of Cantley, supported the plan. She said: “I don’t think the stadium management company is interested in football, and I gather Rovers have not been able to field a reserve team this season because of the cost of playing on the pitch. I think it is in the best interests of everyone if Rovers take over the running - for the club because they known what they need to run a football club and the council because they won’t have to subsidise it.”
Rovers fan Gerald Robinson, from Bolton on Dearne, aged 60, agreed Rovers taking over was a good idea. He said: “I think it would be a good thing.”
Chris Atkin, of Campsall, aged 64, also backed the proposal. She said: “I don’t know much about football, but if a football team has a ground it should be down to them to pay for it. I’m happy if it means the council’s not paying for it.”
Cyril Atkin, also of Campsall, aged 60, said he thought the council should sell the ground. He said: “I think they should just find a buyer.”
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