Rovers’ missing fans

They're off for the start of a heat in the boys' Under-10 100m.      Pictures: Steve Taylor
They're off for the start of a heat in the boys' Under-10 100m. Pictures: Steve Taylor
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EVEN allowing for the fact that Doncaster Rovers were propping up the Championship table, and Bristol City aren’t the most attractive of opposition and brought fewer than 500 supporters, the crowd of 7,778 for Saturday’s game at the Keepmoat Stadium was still disappointing.

It was over 2,000 less than the next lowest crowd for the game between Millwall and Barnsley at the New Den, and less than the half the attendance at a number of Championship games which makes it hard for Rovers to compete financially.

Another success: Doncaster runners Beth Dobbin, second left, and Chloe Bradley, right, finish second and third in the junior women's 100m in the Bank Holiday Open.  Pictures: Steve Taylor

Another success: Doncaster runners Beth Dobbin, second left, and Chloe Bradley, right, finish second and third in the junior women's 100m in the Bank Holiday Open. Pictures: Steve Taylor

Admittedly, Rovers’ tally of one point from their first five games is disappointing.

But three of those defeats were against sides currently in the the top four and in all but one of their five games they deserved to take a point.

The quality of some of their football this season - especially in the first 25 minutes of their Carling Cup tie against Leeds - has been reminiscent of the club’s first season in the Championship.

I honestly believe that once Rovers get some of their key players back, as they could within the next month or so, that they’ll be a match for most of their Championship rivals.

Having made my share of false starts - starting was never my strong point - during my track and field career many years ago, I had some sympathy with Usain Bolt in Sunday’s World Championships 100m final.

Every sprinter tries to anticipate the gun because they otherwise run the risk of getting left behind - though that shouldn’t have unduly worried someone of Bolt’s ability.

But to the average international-class sprinter, a split second can mean the difference between being in the medals and missing out.

A number of factors can lead to a sprinter making a false start and more allowance should be made than is currently the case.

Bolt’s disqualification robbed the Championships of its star performer in the most eagerly-anticipated event and it is to be hoped that athletics authorities go back to the old system of two false starts before an athlete is disqualified before the next major championships.

I questioned the Rugby League’s wisdom in taking the England-Australia Four Nations’ game to Wembley Stadium on November 5 when it was made recently.

My concern that the stadium could be half full at best increased after Saturday’s Challenge Cup final between Leeds and Wigan - the two best supported teams in Super League - only attracted a crowd of 78,472.

A lot of Leeds’ fans probably didn’t make the long journey south due to fears of another embarrassing defeat at the hands of red-hot favourites Wigan similar to the one handed out to the Rhinos by Warrington 12 months earlier, but there are other reasons.

Times are hard for a lot of working class people from which the sport traditionally draws its support and whereas a lot of people used to incorporate a trip to the final with a long weekend in London many simply can’t afford to do so now.

The RFU continues to sell out Twickenham without problem but there is a big support base much nearer the capital than is the case with the mainly northern code.

Another worry for rugby league is the spending power of top rugby union clubs and the greater national and international profile of union, likely to be further enhanced by the World Cup which gets under way Down Under early next month.

Wigan’s Sam Tomkins, the brightest star in the British game at the moment, admitted in an interview ahead of the Challenge Cup final that the prospect of playing to full houses on the international stage appealed to him and he dropped a strong hint that he would consider following other Wigan stars such as Andy Farrell, Jason Robinson and Chris Ashton into the union ranks at some stage.

The curtain will come down on Doncaster Rovers Belles’ inaugural FA Women’s Super League (WSL) campaign unless they upset the odds in this weekend’s Continental Cup first round tie against Birmingham at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Belles scored from two late free-kicks to snatch an unlikely 2-2 draw against the second-placed Blues in their last league game of the season on Sunday.

On the balance of play it was a result which flattered second-bottom Belles, but at least it underlined their never-say-die attitude.

Big-spending Birmingham, whose budget dwarfs that of Belles boss John Buckley, will be wanting to try and win the Cup after missing out to Arsenal in the league.

But with Belles assured of home advantage in the semi-final as well if they win, they have every incentive to give it their best shot against the Blues.

The FA have invested a fair bit of money, as they will do again next season, in a bid to establish an elite professional women’s league, but the jury is still out on whether the WSL is a viable concept without their input.

Unless Belles were to attract a major sponsor it is difficult to see, given the size of the crowds, how they could afford to go full-time,

The rise and rise of Doncaster AC

Doncaster Athletic Club is one of the major local success stories of recent years.

During the years when this paper actively supported the campaign for a modern athletic facility in the town, I argued that Doncaster could become a major force in the sport given the right support.

That claim has proved correct and the club has grown in stature every season since the track at the Keepmoat Stadium complex opened, with fewer top Doncaster athletes looking to move on.

As well as turning out a number of young athletes who look to have a bright future - and the various coaches deserve credit for their efforts in that respect - the club have also earned themselves an enviable reputation for staging events such as the annual Bank Holiday Open meeting which proved another success on Monday.