GAVIN Baldwin has admitted that Doncaster Rovers lost their identity along with their Championship status.
And, in a revealing interview, Rovers’ straight-talking chief executive claims the club would still be playing in the second tier had they operated with tighter financial control following promotion in 2008.
Baldwin this week answered a selection of fans’ questions exclusively in the Free Press, addressing topics such as the club’s transfer policy, business strategy and youth development plan.
The former council boss is keen to look forward rather than back - and he wants to work with the club’s fan base to right the wrongs of Rovers’ recent fall from grace.
But when asked if Rovers had learned any valuable lessons from their four-year stay in the Championship, Baldwin was emphatic in his response.
“It’s fair to say the club learned a lot about the financial pressures of competing in the Championship,” he said.
“In trying to stay competitive we made decisions that resulted in a loss of identity and fans losing faith in us.
“It is my feeling that if we had a tighter control during our time in the Championship [...] then we would still be in there now.
“I strongly believe that if we had embarked upon our strategies a few years earlier we would have generated a profit and that would have been pumped back into the club as our current business plan states.”
Baldwin’s damning assessment of the way Rovers exited the Championship is the first time a member of the club’s board or backroom team has gone on the record and appear to criticise last season’s controversial change in transfer policy.
The decision to employ agent Willie McKay as a club consultant - and the idea to turn Rovers into a shop window for foreign loan players - still rankles with a section of supporters more than a year on from its inception.
Baldwin’s comments in this week’s Free Press appear to suggest that the club now acknowledge that the policy did more harm than good.
And the former business recovery executive is also critical of the club’s spending during their four-year term in the Championship, a period which saw several members of the club’s ageing squad offered extended contracts.
In our exclusive #AskGavin social media interview, Baldwin says the club are on target to make a £250,000 profit from their first year in charge of the Keepmoat Stadium.
He reveals that Rovers have already set various wage budgets for next season, dependent on which division they end up in.
And he also states that the board will support Dean Saunders with extra funds in January should the club go into the transfer window period in a top six position.
In addition, Baldwin praises the job that Saunders has done so far, gives the thumbs up to the major shareholders’ financial flexibility and reveals the intricacies of the club’s plan to promote five youth team players every season.
Uppermost in Baldwin’s thoughts, however, is getting the fans back onside after another difficult period in the club’s colourful history.
He said: “We want Doncaster Rovers and the Keepmoat Stadium to be a venue where fans feel valued.
“I believe that can really make the difference moving forward.”
Baldwin’s main task, since his full time appointment in May, has been to oversee a huge cut in the club’s financial outlay.
The wage budget dropped from £9m to £4m over the course of the summer, while the cost of relegation in terms of revenue - thought to be around the £6m mark - has also seen several administrative roles at the club cut in recent months.
Major shareholders Dick Watson and Terry Bramall resigned from the board in January but stated in June that they would continue to support the club financially, dependent upon the club sticking rigidly to Baldwin’s three-year business plan.
Amid an environment of cutbacks, however, the club is also making a concerted effort to re-connect with supporters following relegation, most notably through the In Rovers We Trust project.
Last week the Free Press exclusively revealed plans to renovate the Keepmoat Stadium concourse areas, while Rovers are also keen to consult with supporters on the issue of improving the atmosphere at home games.