Gavin Baldwin Q&A part five: The ownership, the Watson family, academy upgrade and community work

Gavin Baldwin
Gavin Baldwin

In the fifth part of our exclusive Q&A with chief executive Gavin Baldwin, deputy head of sport LIAM HODEN hears about the current ownership structure, the possibility of upgrading the Academy and positive progress off the pitch.

Q: How has Dick Watson’s death affected the running of the club?

Gavin Baldwin: “The ownership remains stable and passionate.

“The Watson family, represented by Andy, has stepped into Dick’s shoes and therefore the ownership is extremely stable.

“Andy is a massive fan of Doncaster Rovers and football and we benefit from that.

“It is obvious to say Dick was a great guy and does leave a hole, but he would leave a hole anywhere.

“Dick had a great personality and he lived and breathed Doncaster Rovers.

“His son Andy is equally a fan but hasn’t got the years service yet that his dad had.

“So therefore, he is growing an affinity with the fans.

“But if you look at it purely from a paper exercise, which is hard to do, nothing changes at all.

“The Watson family very bravely and very clearly from day one said do not worry, we will step in where our dad was.

“And they’ve completely fulfilled that commitment.

“Dick was a great guy, everyone loved him when he walked around the stadium, the fans, staff.

“Andy is a great guy also and is loved by the staff and I expect him to be loved by the fans also.”

Q: Will Andrew Watson have a greater presence in the future?

Gavin Baldwin: “Andy is looking at his role. For instance, outward facing, he is keen to meet with the Supporters’ Club, the VSC for instance, keen to attend Meet The Owners.

“He is keen to tell them what he wants because Andy’s massive passion is the first team on a Saturday and he wants to enjoy that.

“But also the Academy. It might be a bit of bias because his son’s in the Academy and doing well.

“Those are the two things. He wants the first team to be in the Championship and for us to have an Academy to be proud of.

“That is what he will bring to Doncaster Rovers.”

Q: Is there a possibility in the future of upgrading the status of the academy to category 2?

Gavin Baldwin: “We believe that we’ve been ranked in the top four of Category 3 Academies.

“Last year we offered five players first year pro contracts. It’s working.

“If you look at the make-up of the squad last year, the squad for the Checkatrade Trophy, the Academy is really starting to work for us.

“A bit like the first team, the staffing for the Academy is building towards Cat 2, the facilities are building towards Cat 2. They are all there.

“What Kieran Scarff [Academy manager] is doing at the minute is producing a paper for the board saying this is what is needed to reach Cat 2 and these are the benefits.

“It’s an active conversation at the moment.

“The decision we’ve got to make is do we want to be the best Cat 3 Academy in the country or, once we understand the benefits of Cat 2, is that where we want to go?

“To give a crude example, if Cat 2 was to cost £2million because we need an indoor facility, does that go into the Cat 2 Academy or the playing squad? It’s those sort of dilemmas.

“It’ll either be let’s go for it or let’s be the best Cat 3 Academy in the country.

“The way the board operate is that Kieran will come to that meeting and it’ll be a proper chat. It’s not a presentation and wait for the answer.

“The decision will come through a chat. The first team manager will be there, Kieran will be there, the board will be there and so will I.

“It’ll be a decision that is for the good of the club and that’s how it works.

“It may be that we operate essentially as a Cat 2 without the indoor facility. That is what we are trying to do at the moment.

“The indoor facility is the expensive bit and where would it go? We’re having those conversations with Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council at the moment.

“That doesn’t stop us from operating as Cat 2 with everything else we do.”

Q: What do you think Rovers as a club are doing well?

Gavin Baldwin: “I’ll give some figures on the community work. We’ve had 120,000 attendances across school community activities.

“At the moment we’re doing this holiday hunger project across the six weeks with kids that don’t benefit from food during the holidays because they’re not getting school meals. We’re expecting to work with 5,000 children and young people across Doncaster with that.

“Fit Rovers has been a national winner. We’ve 720 participants in the NCS scheme. We’ve had 21,000 in the community volunteering service that we’ve organised and we’ve got 155 higher or further education students within the Foundation.

“There’s the Family Excellence awards as well. We were in the top ten with the gold award and there was only three outside the Championship. A lot of effort goes into that.

“We’ve had Andy Butler and Matty Blair winning community awards and we have that sort of culture within the squad.

“I think with the community work, we need to tell the story that we really are trying to make a difference.

“I’d like to think our fan engagement works, we try harder than anyone else I know.

“I think we’ve created the infrastructure to support the first team manager. Darren Ferguson did a great job with the backroom staff, improving the pitches at Cantley Park. That is going really well.

“From my point of view, the community work and creating the infrastructure to support a Championship team is what is going really well. And obviously growing the revenues.

“There is significant work to do to get the team to get us into the Championship and hopefully Grant McCann is doing a good job with that.

“And we’ve got to look further at how we talk to the fans and relay our messages to the fans so that we create the team spirit with the fans that we’re all pushing in the same direction and they understand the plan and are comfortable with it.

“It’s why we’ll do Meet The Owners events where we get genuine feedback, hopefully give very honest responses and a lot of the time think, yeah, it’s a really good idea and a good point.

“I do think, and there may be a lot of bias with this, that we make a real effort to talk to individual fans. If a fan emails in, we meet them. Or we talk to groups, or the supporters’ board.

“We try very hard to get fan feedback and build it into our thinking. A lot of fans have come up with the best ideas that we’ve got here.

“Someone said to me ‘why don’t you sell the carparks on non-matchdays?’ We thought it was a good idea and now those carparks raise more than six figures per annum.

“That money goes straight into the team so the person who came up with that idea should be proud because they’ve contributed significantly to the team every year.

“That is what we’re good at but there are areas where we need significant improvement.”

Q: Are there any projects at the club you are excited about?

Gavin Baldwin: “Right now it is all about supporting Grant McCann and his work. I genuinely am looking forward to this season.

“If we can play exciting football that is putting us in the play-off positions, that is everything we’re about.

“My job is the boring job. I’m the one who tries to get the money to do that job and also to protect the company.

“If I was to talk about the DNA Card, the numbers we’re getting into the education plan, that is all dull.

“The reason we’re doing all that is for that Saturday or Tuesday night, to have a good cup run and for the fans to feel pride in the brand of football we’ve got, to buy into what is trying to be achieved by the football management team and to look forward to their Saturdays.

“It is so Doncaster Rovers becomes part of their lives and what they want to do.

“We’ve got to bring that excitement back.”