COUNCIL chiefs have agreed to get the cash-strapped Keepmoat Stadium off its books - lifting a burden from the taxpayer.
Doncaster Council’s cabinet has agreed in principle to allow Doncaster Rovers to take over the running of the Lakeside community stadium.
Final negotiations between the authority and the club will now start, but it would be a major surprise, if after months of talks - exclusively revealed by the Free Press in September - the deal collapsed.
The deal will see Rovers take over responsibility from Stadium Management Company, which is £2.4 million in debt and only has enough money left to operate for six weeks.
At yesterday’s cabinet meeting mayor Peter Davies described the situation as “an unexploded bomb I keep finding in the undergrowth.”
He added: “It is vitally important Doncaster Rovers continues.
“Councils should not be building football stadiums or theatres or any other entertainment venue.
“If Rovers wanted a stadium they should have built it themselves rather than landing the taxpayer with a bill for £30 million and no sensible prospect of ever getting it back.
“This is a stadium that should not have been built by the council, but short of finding a buyer this is our best solution.”
The cost of the stadium was £32 million - mainly funded by the taxpayer. Leaked reports seen by the Free Press estimated the council could have received £25 million if it had sold the land - which it handed over - to developers.
Council documents recommended Rovers’ lease on the venue and their Cantley Park training ground be extended to 99 years in return for the club paying £100,000 a year in rent.
The council would still own the land and stadium and cover the £75,000 insurance, but Rovers will carry out the day to day running of the ground and car park.
The club will take any profit or loss from ticket sales and income from car boot sales, gyms and office space - currently standing at annual losses of £250,000.
There would have to be a commitment for other major clubs - The Dons, The Belles and the athletics club - to be able to use the stadium.
Club chairman John Ryan, said: “This is fantastic news for Doncaster and we are pleased that the council Cabinet have ratified a deal which will see Doncaster Rovers take over the running of the Keepmoat Stadium.
“This is clearly the best option for the future of the stadium and the option which meets the needs of local residents by removing the current burden on the tax payer.
Gavin Baldwin, told a scrutiny committee meeting of the council on Tuesday negotiations would “result in a deal that would benefit Doncaster, bringing the stadium back to the residents, our fans and the business community.
“Our aim is to bring the stadium back to the residents, our fans and the business community and to remind people that the Keepmoat Stadium is a venue to be proud of.”
If passed six jobs will be lost at the council’s expense, but all other jobs from the management team will be transferred to Rovers.
It is expected further community projects such as office space, events and gym promotions could bring in more money to help Rovers balance the books.
Fans have taken to social media to welcome the move.
On twitter @gaz8630_drfc said: “yessssss!!!!!! It’s about time drfc got it. Massive plus as wont have to be dictated to wether we train on it. Held us back.”
The deal could be in place by July 1 if negotiations are successful.