Doncaster Rovers have ‘clean slate’ financially after making small operating profit
A season of cost-cutting which came at a high footballing price for Doncaster Rovers came on the back of a small operational profit during the first full year of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been revealed.
Head of finance Richard Poole says the club have a "clean slate" following what he described as one of the most difficult financial years in its history but a lack of effective squad investment since cost them their place in League One last season.
Like most of the Football League, Rovers had to strike a difficult balance between ambition and protecting the club's long-term future.
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From the suspension of football in March 2020 to the start of the 2021-22, Doncaster had to play all home matches behind closed doors yet they managed to come through the financial year ending June 2021 with an operational profit of £90,000.
This came on the back of overall losses of £557,000 and £1.85m for the previous two seasons.
In an update to supporters, Poole called the financial year "one of the most difficult on record due to the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting periods of lockdown."
He added: "We continue to operate today thanks to the incredible generosity shown by our supporters and partners along with the ingenuity, resourcefulness and hard work of superb staff, for which we are forever grateful.
"It is pleasing therefore to confirm during the financial year to June 2021 that the club made a small operational profit of £90,000 - excluding player trading and compensation from the departure of coaching staff (Darren Moore and his assistant Jamie Smith controversially left for Sheffield Wednesday in March 2021) but including grants from the EFL and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, and rates reductions.
"The healthy financial position has allowed the club to budget for returning 50 per cent of season ticket donations via guaranteed savings on season ticket prices for the next five years. This was alongside free streaming of home matches provided to season ticket holders for the 20-21 season.
"It also enabled the reduction of season ticket prices for the coming season to the cheapest in the 15-year history of the Eco-Power Stadium."
One significant achievement was clearing £1.2m of "pandemic-related debt", which included "a large HMRC bill". Poole made reference to how a wage deferral agreed by the players had helped the situation.
That clearing of debt gives Poole most optimism for the future, saying: "The only remaining pandemic-related debt comes in the form of two staggered fixed payments within the next year.
"Clearing the debt provides us with a clean slate as we seek to continue to grow the business in the coming years and allows for monies to be received from past or future player trading to be directly invested into first-team resources."
The board's lack of investment in a squad which was challenging for automatic promotion in early 2021 before Moore's departure but largely based around loan signings has been a source of discontent for its critics, especially those on the terraces.
Richie Wellens blamed it for his lack of success in his 199-day stint as manager, which ended when he was sacked in December 2021 with Rovers 23rd in League One. His successor Gary McSheffrey failed to steer the club away from relegation.
“With Covid, and them having to recoup the losses that they lost from Covid, that was a really tough situation,” former midfielder Wellens said of his time back at the club.
“I probably made a mistake in going to Doncaster if I’m being honest. I let my heart rule my head. There were a lot of red flags there."
So far this summer, Doncaster have recruited Harrison Biggins, Luke Molyneux and former Middlesbrough, Bradford City and Barnsley striker George Miller on free transfers.