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Scully Takes Rovers Back To The Future

19 November 2012

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Doncaster Rovers Foundation Chief Executive Liam Scully spoke to the Football League website about the fantastic work that is going on in the local community.

Posted on the Football League website for all to see, the eye opening interview with the former apprentice gives an insight into the work that is carried out by his team and the transition from the characteristic Belle Vue Stadium to the fantastic facilities at the Keepmoat Stadium. 

Liam Scully sweeps his finger across the giant colour photograph of Doncaster Rovers' Belle Vue stadium, their home for 84 years, and points towards a gun metal grey portacabin outside the club's main entrance.

"That was Doncaster's Football in the Community office and before that it was a tiny space next to the kit man's room," said Doncaster Rovers' Community Sports and Education Foundation chief executive.

"We weren't allowed to switch the toaster, kettle or heaters on in the community office when they were powering up the floodlights in case it fused the whole ground.

"Looking back, I can't believe how far we've come since we left Belle Vue behind in 2006.

"It really was another world then, but whatever the circumstances there is absolutely something special about Doncaster Rovers in what we do and how we do it."

The striking aerial picture high on the wall of Doncaster supporters' bar inside the Keepmoat Stadium beautifully preserves that strong football bond between the past and the present in the Yorkshire railway town.

Yet it is hard to conjure up a person more suited to leading Doncaster's Foundation. Liam, who joined the club as a community apprentice over a decade ago, landed the top job after Eric Randerson, the man behind the 
success of Doncaster Rovers Community Foundation for 27 years, stepped down last summer. 

"Eric was Mr Community for us - and my mentor. He developed the scheme with a couple of employees and the odd volunteer to what it is today, with over 40 staff.

"Doncaster's a club that gets under your skin, you know. I was a Sheffield lad, but as a kid I'd stand on the old Popular Side Stand with my dad.

"We'd get covered in tea and Bovril when Rovers scored. It was like a rollercoaster, though. The club nearly went out of business. I remember we started one season in the Conference with 13 players and no shirt sponsor. 
They had bought the first team's kit out of a catalogue."

Now the 28-year-old is charged with preserving and building that powerful community legacy.

And with just an hour in his company you know he is more than ready for the challenge.

"To be given this job, to lead the Foundation, is a massive opportunity to do something special.

"It's funny, the phrase that some Rovers fans used to have was, 'we are a pub team having a laugh.'

"But when we were promoted to the npower Championship it changed everything, on and off the pitch. Even though we are back in League 1 now, we don't feel we borrowed our time in the Championship. Our challenge is to try and get back to that level but ensure we keep our identity for the fans"

"We know that's where Doncaster Rovers belong. Off the field, Doncaster is in a phenomenal place because the club operates as a family."

Leaf through Doncaster's Community and Sports Education brochure and you get the picture. The Keepmoat Stadium is overflowing with life-changing projects and educational initiatives. Their motto is, 'Challenge, Inspire, Motivate.'

The scheme currently engages with 72 of Doncaster's 125 schools - they will be in all schools by the end of this season.

Doncaster's dynamic foundation won the town's 2012 Sports Business of the Year prize and have signed up to deliver The Football League Respect programme in 25 local schools.

In 2012, they finished top of the pile for player involvement of all 92 professional league clubs. 1,228 players visited various projects in the town, a figure that makes Liam and his team proud.

"Rather than doing the normal player visit, they spend half a day at a local school. For example, reading to the kids, or promoting healthy eating or anti-bullying messages, the kind of stuff you would want your role models to be talking about," he said.

"They talk to the kids about how and why they became a professional footballer and how much dedication that requires and the sacrifices that they have to make to achieve that.

"It not a photo opportunity or a PR stunt, it is a very genuine way of reaching out to the community and it really has had a huge impact.

"Doncaster's players are opening doors in the community."

There is vibrancy and a real sense of achievement coursing through Doncaster's community scheme.

"The place is buzzing," says Liam, "It is not long since our supporters were stood on the terraces at Tamworth and Barrow, and when we moved to the new stadium perhaps some of them almost felt like they had lost a little bit 
of touch with that club they had recognised.

"We want to make sure that Doncaster Rovers never loses touch with its supporters and they feel like that they have an influence in what is going on.

"A great way of forging that link is through our community work, making sure that children have an affection and affinity for Doncaster Rovers from an early age.

"Doncaster has got a lot of challenges in front of it - but we feel we are in the right position to take on those challenges.

"What would be great is if the next £10million striker comes from Doncaster. However, and perhaps more realistically, our aim is to try and impact on 20,000 people a year, with Doncaster Rovers having a positive impact on their lives, whether that's somebody stopping smoking, eating better or simply getting a child involved in sport."

by Tony Dewhurst

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