doncaster Rovers were yesterday rocked by news that four of the club’s board have resigned.
Multi-millionaire duo Dick Watson and Terry Bramall, who made their fortune from the Keepmoat property company, are the two highest profile names to quit.
Andrew Watson and Sarah Kell, Dick Watson’s children, are the other two to leave.
Chairman John Ryan, who effectively ran and funded Rovers as a triumvirate with Watson and Bramall, told The Star that the news has come as a major shock to him and the club: “They (the resignations) were not at all expected.
“I arrived back from holiday from Barbados and had four resignations in the space of 48 hours - the first was from Terry Bramall. It is very disappointing for myself and the club. I’m feeling a bit bruised and battered today.”
Ryan, Watson and Bramall funded the club’s investment, split equally between the three. Ryan said: “We worked along the basis of that if I put in a pound then Dick and Terry each put a pound in too.
“It’s too early to say what happens at the club. I have to assess it. What I would say is that the fans have to get right behind the club, rally round and show how much it means to them.”
The Star understands that Bramall had ‘lost interest’ in the role and Ryan cited abuse from Rovers’ supporters as one of the possible reasons.
He said: “There is a need for the fans who are negative all the time to just now shut up.
“There is a minority who wouldn’t be happy even if we won the Champions League.
“There is no pleasing some people.”
Concern now centres on whether Rovers are able to not only retain their best players such as Billy Sharp, but also if Ryan still has the fight to continue to act as the lone saviour of the club.
Revealing that Rovers have a shortfall in their budget of £5m Ryan also said that between him and Watson they had pumped in £3.2m to allow the club to try and fight its way out of relegation trouble.
While Bramall’s resignation was a personal choice, Watson had been advised by medical experts to stand down.
Ryan said: “People don’t realise the strain on club directors and chairman. They’ll say that we’re successful businessmen and that we should be able to take the criticism but it wears you down.”
In a statement on the club’s website Ryan spoke warmly of the work that Rovers fan Watson had done in helping to establish the club in the second tier of English football: “In Dick’s case he was advised to resign due to medical reasons and all four (directors) will be a great loss to the club.
“I would like to pay tribute to the help they have given me over the last four or five years, particularly my vice chairman Dick Watson, during which time the club has advanced significantly.”
Ryan added that it was a blow to everyone concerned with Rovers.
He said: “I cannot disguise the fact that this will come as a disappointment to our loyal supporters, not to mention myself, but we now have to look to the future.”
Watson and Bramall joined board at the same time in October 2006. A year later they teamed up with John Ryan to become equal controlling shareholders.
The pair made their money partly through the buy-out of Keepmoat.
Bramall reportedly picked up £600m from the deal and Watson £142.5m.
Their financial help has helped Rovers, whose gates are among the lowest in the Championship, to punch well above their weight since promotion from League One in 2008.
Manager Dean Saunders has a playing budget of around £8m, which may explain why the club are experimenting by using agent Willie McKay as a football consultant to attract high profile signings.
Whether or not McKay will be allowed to continue to recommend players will be one of the items on Ryan’s “very long list” of things to do when he arrives at the Keepmoat today.
The chairman of 14 years admits that things aren’t as bad as they have been but some dark days lie ahead.