Doncaster Rovers: Even with Louis Tomlinson on board, sums don’t add up for John Ryan’s get-rich-quick scheme

Louis Tomlinson

Louis Tomlinson

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On the face of it, John Ryan’s latest brainwave to pump money into Doncaster Rovers is a stroke of genius.

Ryan has long been frustrated by the size of the club’s support base, feeling that Rovers’ inability to sell out the Keepmoat Stadium, even for matches in the upper reaches of the Championship, was stymying his ability to move the club forward.

In Rovers superfan turned One Direction megastar Louis Tomlinson, Ryan has found the potential to tap into a much larger global fanbase of the kind only previously enjoyed by the likes of Manchester United.

Taking over the club as joint chairmen, the pair announced the launch of the Tomlinson Ryan Trust - a “crowdfunding” initiative that aims to raise £2 million in a month to form a supporters’ trust that would own five per cent of the club.

The appeal makes much of Louis’s involvement and aims to excite fans not just of Doncaster Rovers, but of the One Direction global juggernaut.

Within an hour of the appeal being launched it was over a quarter of the way to its target, sending supporters and pundits giddy with excitement. Has John Ryan finally struck gold?

Probably not.

What many missed in those heady early hours (myself included) was that the first £500,000 into the pot was put in by Ryan and Tomlinson themselves to help build early momentum.

So in effect we are looking at a crowdfunding aim not of £2 million but £1.5 million.

To hit that total over 28 days, they’d need a daily tally of £53,531. But it took more than three days to raise that amount.

And the thing with crowdfunding is that it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. If a campaign doesn’t reach its target by its deadline, all backers get their money refunded and the whole thing goes back to the drawing board.

So the Trust needs to up its game as the campaign enters its second week.

In crowdfunding, unlike traditional investment, money is pledged as a donation which is rewarded not with a financial stake in the project but with various “rewards” set at different donation amounts.

Rewards in the Rovers campaign range from personalised thank-you messages for a fiver right up to a VIP box for 12 at a match with a 10-minute meet-and-greet with Louis - yours for a cool 12 grand.

Some rewards, like the chance to take a selfie with Louis before a Rovers match for £250, may prove popular with the One Direction fanbase.

And others, like getting your name on a “supporter’s wall” at the Keepmoat for £35, may appeal to die-hard Rovers fans.

But others, such as paying £300 to take part in a half-time free kick competition with no guarantee of winning, seem ill-thought-out. No takers for that one at the time of writing, unsurprisingly.

Crowdfunding is a novelty in football, but it has been around for five years through the Kickstarter website, raising funds for arts and technology projects.

And for every notable Kickstarted success, such as the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset which went on to be bought out by Facebook in a billion-dollar deal this year, there are dozens of high-profile flops, many with celebrity names attached to them.

Tomlinson Ryan Trust could well be joining them unless it can build momentum and improve on its steady start.

Visit the Trust’s crowdfunding page at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/trust.