An update from chief executive Gavin Baldwin ahead of the 2021/22 season.
As we welcome fans back to Keepmoat Stadium for a league game for the first time since February 2020, we do so with mixed emotions.
We are sombre for those that won’t be making their return to Keepmoat this Saturday, the pandemic has sadly taken far too many of our family and friends and we will be seeking to honour their memory with a minute of applause ahead of kick-off.
We also return to action with a sense of appreciation, gratitude, and humility. Your support as a fanbase during the last 18 months has been truly amazing. We closed our doors not knowing when we would ever see fans back in the stadium again, which was a frightening prospect. Your support during this time has been humbling.
The main feeling as we come to Saturday though is one of excitement and both staff and football personnel cannot wait to see and hear the Black Bank in action and the sounds of the crowd this weekend.
We are aware that Saturday will bring supporters mixed emotions too. There will be some who are desperate to get back to the stadium, have their pre-match pint and sing and shout through 90 minutes of action but there will be others who for Saturday is an apprehensive occasion. It may be one of the first times they have been out in a crowd for over a year, and we will respect everyone’s right to enjoy the matchday on their own terms.
Operationally, while we aim to return as normal, you will see some changes. Programmes will only be available in the Club Store, Club Doncaster Box Office and from the food kiosks inside the ground and for the time being the half time draw won’t be in operation. We will also have a dedicated Red Zone area near the West Reception and the guidance we have been given is to try and limit player interaction with fans, due to risk of transmitting the disease. We ask fans to support us with this and not congregate around the players’ reception pre-match. We are desperate to avoid players self-isolating.
We will of course respect everyone’s right to wear a facemask if they choose and have created social distanced seating for those that want to separate from crowds. However you want to enjoy your Saturday, please remember everyone is different, but we’re all part of the same family. We all want to enjoy the match in our own way. We ask everyone to respect and support fans’ rights to enjoy the match on their terms.
Of course, as you will have seen almost daily and as you may have witnessed at our own pre-season friendlies, there is a shortage of staff availability at present due to many reasons, not least the requirement to self-isolate if you have been designated a close contact. This is a national issue facing many organisations and one we are not immune from, we are trying to make sure we have over staffed for Saturday in case we have last minute dropouts, but it is of course a difficult situation. We are thankful to you all for your patience when dealing with staff who may be covering a new role or in areas where staff numbers may be fewer than usual. Please be assured everyone is working as quickly as they can.
Finally, as pre-season comes to a close, it is obvious to everyone that it has not been a smooth ride, with large parts of the squad also having to isolate in recent weeks or picking up injuries. It has not been ideal, but as we said a few weeks back, this season is about rebuilding and becoming Doncaster Rovers once more. It will take time and there will be ups and downs, but I am sure we will have more highs than lows this season. Not least the return of fans this weekend.
As Richie gets set to mark his official return to Doncaster Rovers in a competitive match, I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him well for the new season. In the short time since his arrival, he has been a complete breath of fresh air with his attitude and desire and his focus on ensuring his long-term objectives do not get side-tracked by short term challenges.