In May he fought for his life - now former RAF colleague of Prince William is fighting for his Doncaster gym and squash club

In the summer he fought for his life after contracting coronavirus.

Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 7:00 am

But now Doncaster gym and squash club owner Rob Waller is fighting for his livelihood.

Rob was so worried as he battled Covid 19 earlier this year that he wrote his will, but he is now struggling to keep afloat with rent payments to his landlord, the NHS, at the Woodfield Squash and Leisure Club, which he runs at Woodfield Park.

"I was a boxer, I'm ex-military - my default setting is never say die," said Rob, who caught the virus in May. "Giving in to it was the last thing on my mind. But it reached the point when I could bearly breathe. I was shivering one minute, boiling the next - I honestly thought I was a goner."

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Rob Waller who is appealing for help to keep his squash club and gym open. Picture Scott Merrylees

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Rob's fear for his future was so strong that during his time in hospital he even wrote his will.

"It wasn't something I'd planned to do at my age, but I was so ill it seemed like a sensible idea at the time," he said.

Whilst he was writing his will, he received a rent bill for £3,800.

Rob Waller who is appealing for help to keep his squash club and gym open. Picture Scott Merrylees

"Given how low I was at the time it was really tough to read that letter. It was bad news at the very worst time," he added.

The Woodfield gym was built three years ago in a former NHS office building. It is in the grounds of Tickhill Road Hospital, which is run by Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Trust (RDaSH).

He has had a good relationship with the trust, which even gave him a loan to start the business three years ago.

But he said: “For most of this year we've had no income at all but the bills keep coming in. I'm worried for the future, for the business, for the staff and for the community.”

Rob Waller who is appealing for help to keep his squash club and gym open. Picture Scott Merrylees

Though his landlord has allowed him to suspend April’s rent payments until July 31, next year, that rent is still charged at the full amount and rent outside the lockdown period needs to be paid on a monthly basis. Now Rob has set up a crowdfunding web page to try to help him through. Over £3,000 has already been pledged.

"There's a £10,000 grant available from Sport England, but to get it you have to raise £25,000 yourself,” he said. “We've got a crowdfunding page, which has raised £3,000 in a week but, to be fair, a grand of that is donations of £500 each from myself and my business partner Matt Hudson."

The Woodfield Community Crowdfunding Page is https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/woodfield-community.

Rob is a former RAF Fitness instructor, who was stationed with Prince William at RAF Valley, in Anglesey. He played with him in five a side football tournaments on the base whie he was there.

Tracey Wrench, deputy chief executive of RDaSH said: “I am so sorry to hear that Rob has been ill and I wish him well in his recovery.

“RDaSH has always worked well with Rob in the past and I will be in touch with him to discuss the current situation.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.