New stadium already almost £1m in the red

DONCASTER'S Keepmoat Stadium is at the centre of financial concerns today after it emerged it has already lost nearly £1 million.

Tuesday, 2nd October 2007, 8:19 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd October 2007, 11:29 am

The 36 million complex had already plunged 950,000 into the red by June, just six months after it first opened as the home to Doncaster Rovers FC and Doncaster Rugby League Club.

Now the owner, Doncaster Council, is being asked to double the overdraft which it guarantees for the stadium with its bankers, taking it up from 500,000 to 1 million.

The figures are revealed for the first time in a report by the borough's Corporate Director of Finance, Julie Wright, which goes before the council's cabinet next week.

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The problems are being blamed in the report on mistakes in a business plan which was approved by the cabinet before the running of the site was taken over by the existing stadium management company.

The earlier plan was des-cribed as the best estimate possible at the time, but the report adds: "This has created both a medium-term financial viability issue and a cash flow problem."

It is calling for action including a change in board membership, cost-cutting and new ways to raise money.

The report warns the five and seven-a-side soccer centre and the health and fitness suite on the complex have not attracted the users that were expected, although use was increasing. It added the venue staged two high-profile concerts - Bryan Adams, and a Ronan Keating/McFly double header - during July to establish the stadium as a safe and reliable national concert venue, and both lost money.

Mayor of Doncaster Martin Winter said he was delighted the report did not identify any financial irregularities.

He said: "The first year for any new business is challenging. Having said that, I am adamant that we take a rigorous approach to both supporting the SMC (stadium management company) in its early years as the company gets up and running and in protecting the public's interest in the community stadium."

But Community Group leader Martin Williams was concerned about the latest financial report.

He said: "It is a significant financial responsibility. What are we doing? I'm concerned this could turn into a financial white elephant.

"Someone must have had their heads in the sand. I think we're involved in something we shouldn't be.

"Why can't they go to the bank for the money? It's like we're the lender of last resort, like the Bank of England for Northern Rock.

"It is a potential 1 million of taxpayers' money at a time when the roads are full of pot holes we should be repairing."

Doncaster Rovers director Andy Liney said the club's status at the stadium was secure whatever happened regarding the stadium management company.

He said it had a 25-year contract which would stand whoever was running the site.

The report warns losses could continue until 2009, although it should be able to break even in the medium term.