For those of us passionate about Doncaster Rovers, we’ll be familiar with the song “Rovers Till I Die”.
And many of us will wonder just how die-hard much of the fan-base truly is in difficult times, especially if we remember the days of a few hundred people at Belle Vue watching Conference football?
To be fair, though, sport is seen by many as an outlet, a form of entertainment. And when people part with their hard-earned cash in tough economic times, they are likely to feel less entertained by seeing their team getting roundly routed on a regular basis.
And here lies the paradox: without greater support – sustained long-term – clubs cannot thrive and strive for more success, because cashflow is a challenge for them, too, in the big money world of professional football.
This leaves us with a difficult balance to strike after decades of haemorrhaging supporters to bigger clubs like Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United.
Rovers have to retain existing supporters, while also becoming an attractive choice for more casual fans tempted to look elsewhere for their leisure spending.
For this to happen, Rovers have to continue to develop a grounding in local communities, as well as maintain a solid flow of dialogue with supporters so that they can understand one another’s challenges and needs. Recently the club has been doing a fine job of this.
Last summer, the Viking Supporters Cooperative proposed open fan panels to encourage such healthy dialogue, and then-communications manager for Rovers, Shaun Lockwood, chaired the first one, before passing the baton to the fans from various supporters groups to carry the panels themselves.
The club welcomed these opportunities to shape, influence, and contribute to the fan experience at the Keepmoat Stadium as part of an “In Rovers We Trust” initiative.
Lockwood’s successor, Ryan Murrant, instantly expressed his intention to develop the programme and get the stadium ‘buzzing’ through giving the supporters “ownership” of what their stadium’s stands and concourses look and feel like on match days. Part of this drive has been to encourage attendance in the South Stand and create an unreserved singing section, but the use of flares have often hindered such developments.
Nonetheless, the indiscretions of the few will become less insignificant the more that fans get actively involved in this dialogue with a club we’re fortunate enough welcome it.