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Gavin Baldwin interview part two: The budget, ‘five-year plan’ and ‘the Burnley model’

Gavin Baldwin
Gavin Baldwin

In the second part of our exclusive Q&A with chief executive Gavin Baldwin, deputy head of sport LIAM HODEN is given details on the fabled five-year plan to reach the Championship.

He also hears about Doncaster Rovers’ current and future playing budgets and how they are decided upon.

Q: There has been much talk of a five-year plan over the last couple of years without any official confirmation of the details. Is the plan still in place, what does it entail and how does it affect the Rovers playing budget?

Gavin Baldwin: “Our plan is, essentially, Championship football. And Championship football as soon as possible.

“But also the plan includes that when we get there, we want to be in a position where we can stay there and also have some fun when we get there.

“That might be mid-table but going on some good cup runs or having a flirt with the play-offs.

“We don’t want to get there and from day one be clinging on.

“So what we’ve worked really hard to do is improve the infrastructure to support the manager – the support team, the analyst, etc, we believe are now Championship standard.

“We believe the facilities are Championship standard.

“We believe the Academy has transformed under Kieran Scarff and is doing really well, backed up by the recent audit.

“We’ve got players coming through for the future and players as young as 13 that other clubs are actively watching now.

“And also the revenues off the pitch are growing significantly.

“It means that should we get to the Championship, we can be in a position to enjoy it and be that sustainable Championship club that we have ambitions to be.

“The model that the owners have employed is a bit like the model Burnley used to go from Championship to Premier League.

“We are given a budget, through EFL figures – so it’s not finger in the air, it’s fact – that basically puts us as the seventh, eighth or sometimes flirting with the sixth highest budget in the league.

“They believe if we do that on a sustainable basis, we should target ourselves getting in the play-offs more often that not.

“And one of those times we will get into the Championship.

“Once we’re in the Championship we will be in a position to back it up and do some good things.

“I met, on a lot of occasions, with Burnley who we have a lot of respect for and that was their model.

“They didn’t want to go for one season all or nothing. They thought over five years ‘let’s have five good years where we’re going for the play-offs and it’s an enjoyable season and let’s back ourselves that when we get in the play-offs we’ll give it that extra push and get promoted.’

“That doesn’t put the club in a dangerous situation.

“And it also means that we can have a good year every year. Whether that means play-offs or automatic promotion or sometimes just missing out, it puts us in a good position.

“That is the business model we’ve got.

“Our ambition is clearly Championship.

“We, as a club at the moment, could probably operate without the backing of the owners in League One because of the revenues we’ve got.

“We’ve got a club now that is here for the next 50, 100 years and that is something we sought to achieve.

“However, the owners are highly ambitious and they do want the Championship.

“And they choose to put well into seven figures into the club but that purely goes into the playing budget because they want a Championship club.

“But that is now purely their choice.

“Before that wasn’t the case and they had to put seven figures in just to stay here, to come to work every day and play on a Saturday.

“So we are in very much a different situation and that is the plan we have had.

“The plan that we’ve got is to give ourselves the best chance of Championship – brackets, as soon as possible – but when we’re there, let’s enjoy it.

“We think we’re about there.

“I think Grant McCann at the recent Supporters’ Club AGM was clear, he thinks the infrastructure here is Championship standard, the support structure he has got is Championship standard.

“He was candid, brave enough to say that his job is to get the team to the Championship.

“And we will do everything we can to support Grant in those ambitions.

Q: Is the five-year timeframe set in stone?

GB: “The timeframe is as soon as possible.

“I don’t think the owners would ever say, go one, let’s give it one year and if it doesn’t work out, good luck.

“Therefore, the timeframe is as soon as possible but that we give ourselves a chance every year.

“We hope it’s in five years, we hope it’s in two years. But we’ve got the opportunity to do it.

“What we have got are clear plans to support it, which alludes to a five year plan.

“For instance, the Club Doncaster Foundation and how that operates in the community. The Dons is entirely sustainable. The revenues of Club Doncaster, we are targeted to grow them on an annual basis.

“The business model is that no monies leave Club Doncaster to go back to the owners. It’s all invested within and the whole purpose is that we want to have the best possible teams on the field.

“If we’re honest, we believe both the football team and the rugby team could and should – and it’s our responsibility to try get them there – be playing one league above where they are now.

“There is a plan now to create the revenues to support that, supported by the owners’ revenues as well.”

Q: Given the details provided on the budget, was last year’s 15th placed finish a disappointment?

“Our aim was to get promoted from League Two and stay in League One. That was the first aim.

“But we were hoping for more, is the honest shout.

“Darren Ferguson, Gavin Strachan etc were hoping for more and were disappointed at the end.

“We believe through the monies that were made available that we had a better opportunity of coming higher up the table.

“However, Gavin and Darren both achieved aim one of staying there and we believed they were doing a very good job. They had a clear vision of what the squad should look like, age-wise, playing ability, youth strategy etc.

“And there was a clear plan that we were very happy with.

“If we’re being particularly harsh it was disappointing to come 15th but we were comfortable with where we were because it was a significant improvement and we were also confident in our ability to push on and reach the next level going forward.

“We were more than confident that we would step forward this season any way.

Was the budget last season similar to this season relatively, pitching around the seventh or eighth best in the division mark?

GB: “Yes. And when we say that, it is not a finger in the air.

“We have to submit our figures to the EFL and they come back with an anonymised list of figures to show the budgets in League One.

“More often than not, budgets will equate to league position, roughly.

“There are anomalies such as Shrewsbury. That makes it exciting.

“Over five years your squad budget will tell you where you come in the league.

“Therefore we do post a lot of credence on benchmarking and giving the manager the best possible chance of getting the play-off position.”