Doncaster Rovers: Gavin Baldwin excited by ‘friendly takeover’

Gavin Baldwin
Gavin Baldwin

Louis Tomlinson can put more local pride in Doncaster Rovers, according to chief executive Gavin Baldwin.

The 22-year-old One Direction star teamed up with John Ryan to announce his audacious takeover of the club last week, immediately declaring his ambition to see Rovers challenging to reach the Premier League within five years.

New Doncaster Rovers part-owner Louis Tomlinson at the Keepmoat Stadium

New Doncaster Rovers part-owner Louis Tomlinson at the Keepmoat Stadium

It is hoped that Tomlinson’s boardroom involvement with his boyhood club will boost the club’s commercial power and fan base, exporting the Doncaster Rovers ‘brand’ to all four corners of the globe.

But Baldwin has told the Free Press that the new regime will also insist that Rovers remain firmly rooted in the local community.

Tomlinson himself has spoken about his desire to see more people in the town support their local team.

And it is that twin ambition - to succeed on the pitch, and also off it both locally and internationally - that has got Baldwin excited about the future at the Keepmoat Stadium.

“It’s hopefully something that is unique and it’s all built around ambition which for Doncaster Rovers is really exciting,” Baldwin told the Free Press at last Thursday’s takeover press conference, held in a secret location in London.

“The good thing, talking to Louis, is that he’s not going to forget the community.

“He’s passionate to put something back into the community and he wants to do Doncaster proud.

“But this is all about ambition as well, so it covers the full spectrum.

“They want to be bigger than Manchester United and it’s exciting to be part of something like that.

“Hopefully it’s something that the people of Doncaster will be really proud of.

“Hopefully we’re a model to be held up there for other clubs for the future because we’ve been so successful.

“Louis’ family still live in Doncaster and nothing will make us more proud when they walk around Doncaster and people give them the thumbs up saying ‘fair play to Louis, look what he’s done for Doncaster’.

“That will make me personally very proud.

“But it’s Doncaster Rovers that will make them proud. That’s what Louis’ whole motivation is.

“He wants us to be as big as Manchester United but also put something back into Doncaster. He’s hammered that home to us and it makes you proud to be part of it.

“John sees this very much as a foursome with Louis, Paul and myself,” he added.

“Together we’ve got very different strengths and together we’ll make this work and make everyone proud.”

Tomlinson and Ryan’s takeover brought down the curtain on majority shareholders Terry Bramall and Dick Watson’s association with Rovers.

The pair, whose arrival in 2006 coincided with one of the club’s most successful eras as they returned to English football’s second flight for the first time in 50 years, agreed to sell their respective 24 per cent stakes in the club.

They might be gone, but Baldwin echoed John Ryan and Paul Dickov’s sentiments this week by reminding supporters that their efforts behind the scenes should not be forgotten.

“They’re great guys.” said Baldwin.

“They taught me loads and I’ve got absolute respect for them.

“Hopefully they’ll stay involved with the club in some capacity.

“What we do need to stress is that this is not an aggressive takeover, it’s a friendly takeover. They’re all on good terms. Terry met with John [during negotiations].

“Terry and Dick will be really proud if this works,” he added.

“They were absolutely adamant they would not leave this club unless they thought it was going into bigger, more exciting hands.

“They believe that with Louis, a national superstar, and John, the ambition is there.

“I think they should be proud of what they achieved and also proud that they’ve handed it over and said ‘go on you guys see what you can do next’.”

The dawn of a new era at Doncaster also heralded the launch of the Tomlinson Ryan Trust and a Crowdfunder scheme designed to pump £2 million into the club’s coffers.

Amid a blaze of publicity, however, there was very little mention for Club Doncaster - the Sporting Club concept that Baldwin has steadily expanded since his appointment in 2012.

“Absolutely nothing changes,” insisted Baldwin.

“John is committed to Club Doncaster. We’ve talked about it at length.

“We’ve explained the business model because John had reservations about the Dons at the start, but the Dons are absolutely fine.

“Let’s not forget the Foundation either, our charity arm. We’re really proud about what the Foundation does in the community.

“When you put together John’s ambitions for the football, Louis’ ambitions for the football, and also Louis’ ambition for the community, it’s a marriage made in heaven.”

So now the attention turns to recruitment, which was placed on hold during takeover negotiations.

Good things will come to those who wait, Baldwin has told fans.

“Paul’s busting a gut. He’s been talking to players all through the summer and we’re hoping we can push the button now on those signings,” he said.

“They are exciting signings. When our fans see them it will send out a signal of intent.

“We’re hoping the team that takes to the field this year is better than the team we had in the Championship.”