Doncaster Rovers: Part two of our Q&A with CEO Gavin Baldwin talking supporter discontent, his future and a perceived lack of passion in the club’s hierarchy

Recent discontent among a section of the support of Doncaster Rovers has seen the spotlight pointed towards the club’s hierarchy with questions asked about the performance and suitability in roles of the club’s big three.

Sunday, 12th September 2021, 10:24 am
Rovers chief executive Gavin Baldwin with chairman David Blunt

In the second part of our Q&A with chief executive Gavin Baldwin, he addresses such questions head on, discussing his future, a perceived lack of passion, the discontent itself and communication from key figures.

HAVE YOU OR DAVID BLUNT CONSIDERED YOUR POSITIONS AT THE CLUB?

GB: “No. Not at all.

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“We would say we are quite proud of what has happened to the club from when we started working together and after the 2013 experiment season.

“It was a club that was hemorrhaging millions and took over a stadium that was doing similar. We’ve now got a stadium that generates revenue for the club as part of the Club Doncaster business model and a club that each year has a plan to improve the playing budget but doesn’t rely on owner funding, unless they choose to step in and help us.

“We don’t want anything to happen to the owners but if they weren’t around this club, it would be operating as it is now but without the comfort of the backstop the owners provide which has been essential in bringing Dodoo and Vilca in for example.

“It’s been tough and we’ve had to make harsh decisions but we’ve produced a football club that stands on its own feet, with a playing budget that is improving and giving it best chance of getting to the Championship, which is where everyone wants it to be.

“I think we have survived Covid really well. I think we’ve worked well with our fans and we haven’t shied away from the fact they were incredible during Covid.

“At the same time, Covid hasn’t disrupted the plan for a club that can stand on its own two feet and that any owner funding is a pleasure and an additionality.

“I think that has been a huge achievement from where it was.”

CAN YOU UNDERSTAND THE DISCONTENT OF SOME SUPPORTERS?

GB: “What I can understand is that some fans would love a club that spends a lot of money.

“We’re not that club.

“Therefore I can understand their frustrations.

“People such as myself, maybe David, maybe Terry, are talking about building for the future and making sure the playing budget improves every year, with incremental improvements in the playing budget, facilities and processes as revenues allow.

“Some fans want that today. I understand that, to be fair.

“But we’re not that club. We’re not those people.

“It frustrates some people but equally there are a lot of people who tell us they are delighted with how we operate, what we do in the community at the same as trying to increase funds to improve the playing budget.

“And people are reassured that we will be here for another hundred years and that we are trying to be in a position where we can sign better and better players.

“I understand there will be excitement over models at other clubs but they also come with their own risks.”

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO SUGGESTIONS THERE IS NO PASSION FOR THE CLUB FROM THOSE AT THE TOP AND A LACK OF FOOTBALL KNOWLEDGE?

GB: “People shouldn’t underestimate David’s knowledge of the game. He’s played professional football and he’s probably watched more games than anyone else involved in the club.

“We have also sought, through the recruitment committee, to bring in more football people.

“Therefore we have James Coppinger as part of it now.

“We’re actively seeking to bring in a greater football opinion.

“James is a constant. If the manager was to change, James would still be here because he’s a club appointment rather than a manager one.

“We have tried to look at that and we will continue to do so.

“We try to give the football operation autonomy to recruit footballers, within certain parameters and the direction of travel that is set out within our own processes -

how long contracts should be, age restrictions on certain contracts, contracts dropping off per season, incentivised contracts etc etc

“But primarily, if we can let football achieve what they want to achieve, we will try to support them.

“So, for example, Richie wants to bring Ben Close in and you wouldn’t get David Blunt commenting on whether he’s a good player. He will say if you think he’s good enough Richie, we’ll try to get him for you.

“That is more the culture. And I don’t think it would be right for myself or David to be commenting on footballing ability. We can comment on if the deal will work financially.

“Football is a ruthless world and Richie, like all of us, will get judged on results. How can you judge a manager on results if we’re picking the team? It just doesn’t work.

“If I’d played football for 20 years, I’d still try not to interfere in the football decisions because we try to recruit the manager to bring in certain skill sets.

“If we handcuff him, he can’t produce what he needs to produce.”

LITTLE IS HEARD PUBLICLY FROM BOTH TERRY BRAMALL AND DAVID BLUNT. WHY IS THAT?

GB: “They are passionate about their football and they’re equally passionate about the community. And they’re passionate about developing Club Doncaster to give us a better football club in the future.

“They are passionate but they show their passion in different ways.

“David for instance is very shrewd, a rock and very determined. He doesn’t go about it by shouting and beating his chest, saying we’re going to do this and that, but is all about actions, improvement and thought. When we have made a decision he has a steel to deliver.

"They want Richie to talk about football and that should be our main conversations.

“If there is a business conversation to be had that is my role

“Their gift to us is their skills, their expertise and their abilities, but also their passion.

“They are the ones who have driven the club from losing millions and millions to this break even point.

“They’ve had to make tough decisions and fund initiatives to allow us to get to that place. That is all passion - they just show it in a different way.

“They are steely determined and that is the way they operate.

“As regards communication, Richie is a great communicator, Shaun Lockwood is embracing how to communicate and I’d like to think I play my part in communicating as well.”

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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. Liam Hoden, editor.