Doncaster Knights president Steve Lloyd humbled as people club together to help out

In the current climate, it is certainly useful that Steve Lloyd is “ever the optimist” but even the Doncaster Knights president has been pleasantly taken aback by the level of support for the club.

Saturday, 9th May 2020, 2:29 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th May 2020, 2:29 pm
Steve Lloyd, Doncaster Knights. Picture: Chris Etchells

It is not just support from their own followers either; even a Bristol fan has been helping out.

Lloyd and fellow benefactor Tony De Mulder have financially under-pinned Championship Doncaster for decades.

However, with coronavirus meaning no games since March and the impressive facilities at their Castle Park ground also out of use, the South Yorkshire club started a crowdfunding campaign to help bridge the shortfall created by the pandemic.

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Tony De Mulder. Picture: Scott Merrylees

“The main motivation was to let supporters and members really feel connected to what is going on,” Lloyd told The Yorkshire Post.

“We’re a club that is owned by the members still and therefore everybody needed the opportunity to do something.

“Tony and I are continuing the ongoing underwriting of costs but for bills that come in for other things, there’s absolutely nil trading income at Castle Park.

“We put a target of £10,000 up initially and thought it’d be good getting anywhere close.

“But it sits today at around £17,000, gifted by just short of 100 members. We’ve even had a donation from a Bristol supporter!

“It’s been good to see and proof our supporters and members are connected to the club to such a degree and want to do their bit. I’m quite humbled by that.”

Approximately £15,000 will be used for some crucial maintenance of Doncaster’s hybrid pitch, a facility which – ordinarily – is available for use to all.

The club has made a range of rewards available to people who donate, including a goalkicking masterclass from new backs coach Joe Ford, while for every £100 raised it will donate a match ticket to the Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS staff.

The decision to end the current season immediately was announced by the RFU on March 20. Otherwise, today would have been Doncaster’s final fixture of the campaign with Hartpury due to visit Castle Park.

“We were sad the league had to be curtailed but it made every bit of sense,” insisted Lloyd.

“I think we were proved correct, too, as really there’s still no prospect of rugby being played for some time yet.

“The logistics are quite significant. We’re hoping for some steer from the Prime Minister on Sunday but nobody actually knows and no one can tell us when we will be back operating either as a rugby club with events on to earn money or playing rugby.

“But I’m comfortable with it. It came for the Knights, of course, as a double whammy.

“We had a reduction on (RFU) funding for next season and beyond and then this lack of trading income so we’ve had to take two on the chin within three months.

“But I’m positive and happy, we’ll go forward and when things happen they will happen.”

In the meantime, Castle Park has been made available to the NHS – “fortunately, I’m pleased to say, they haven’t had need to use it yet” – and players and the majority of staff remain furloughed.

Whenever the new season does begin, Doncaster, of course, will have a new man at the helm.

Assistant coach Steve Boden, 37, has stepped up to replace director of rugby Clive Griffiths.

Although the playing budget will understandably be leaner, Lloyd is excited by the prospect after a couple of seasons where Knights have struggled to make an impact in the second tier. He said: “Steve’s got our full support and we’re delighted we could get him to be the man in charge.

“He has a history at Doncaster and in Yorkshire per se. He’s a lot of experience and is very well thought of in the rugby community as a technical coach.

“He’ll learn the managerial side as we go on. We talk regularly each week and are putting together a squad for next season which will be younger, playing more expansive and more entertaining rugby.

“The whole thing links together; if you want your sponsors and the financial side you have to have your crowds.

“To get your crowds, you have to play good rugby and that’s seeing guys get around, spreading the ball wide not just playing bash and crash all the time which has no future whatsoever. Steve’s very much working on that and we’re very pleased with his start.

“He’s as frustrated as we are – we’d love to get going – but we just don’t know when that’ll be.”

Today should have seen Griffiths, who has overseen the most successful period in the club’s history getting them into the play-offs for the first time and then a maiden Championship final in 2016, have a fond farewell at Castle Park.

Lloyd conceded: “It is sad for Clive that his swansong was somewhat curtailed in the sense Saturday would have been the last game and he hasn’t been able to see his final season through.

“But we’ve been discussing this for two or three years so we knew it was the end date; Clive is happy to hang up whatever a coach hangs up and we’re very grateful to him.

“He’ll always be welcome at Doncaster as our guest and our friend. He’s been a great friend as well as coach to the club.”