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The fall and rise of The Millers

By Stephanie Barnard
BBC Sheffield & South Yorkshire

The future now looks much brighter for Rotherham United after they suffered two administrations in as many years. In 2008 the club once again faced anguish when they were unable to agree a deal with the owners of Millmoor in 2008 and left the premises.

An artists impression of the old Guest & Chrimes site which will also be home to new civic building for Rotherham Council
An artists impression of the former Guest & Chrimes site which will also be home to new civic building

In the summer of that year [2008] the Football Association gave Rotherham United five years to move football back into the town. Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium became a temporary home for the club.

But now in 2010 the club, its fans and the people of Rotherham can look forward to the future.

The Rotherham United chairman and owner Tony Stewart spoke to BBC Sheffield on Wednesday 28th January and announced the clubs plans for a new stadium site in Rotherham. Originally used as a factory for making taps and valves, the former Guest and Chrimes site is now derelict land. The new stadium which is between Don Street and Main Street in Rotherham will be the future home of Rotherham United.

A brand new town centre site has been announced by Rotherham United and Rotherham Council, unveiling their plan for a 12,000 seated community stadium in Rotherham.

Tony Stewart said, "We've attempted to get many sites in Rotherham and this became available in late 2009. It's the best site we've seen and after negotiations we're getting there.

"The site has great access to the town through public transport. It's a great spot in Rotherham and it will hopefully boost the area around it too.

Millmoor, Rotherham United
Rotherham United's former home Millmoor

Tony Stewart acknowledges that the Rotherham Council has been key to this stadium project, assisting the club in helping them secure the site.

In 2008 the Football Association gave Rotherham United a five year period to move football back into the town, after the club had to temporarily use Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium as a makeshift home to play on. Tony Stewart is confident that the club is back on track and their future is secure.

"We've got room to do quite a lot with our commercial enterprise, including retail and food outlets, but of course all that is subject to planning. We want to maximise the site to its full potential and make it more interesting and commercially viable. It is all part of gaining revenue to supporting the club. We're looking forward to moving things forward."

Carl Battersby, Strategic Director for Environment and Development Services for Rotherham Council is happy that this development is starting to progress and that the town can now look forward. "It's not just about sport but civic pride and kick-starting the further regeneration of the town. It's a well known site and great transport links. There will also be a car park as part of the plans. The intention is to give dual use for parking, not only for matches but for commuters and shoppers during the week."

Sheffield will also be extending it tram links to Rotherham and Parkgate. You can read more about the plans here on BBC News.

BBC Sheffield spoke to Millers supporters on their reaction to these new plans. One woman said, "It's a good idea, it's local. It's great for the Millers." Many people we spoke to were ecstatic at the thought of Rotherham United moving back to the town, one gentleman saying, "Finally! We've been desperate to get back into the town, I'm sick of playing in Sheffield. Hopefully it will improve the area too. I can't wait to see it!"

Where it all began

Paul Douglas, who is chief operating officer for the club, has been part of the Millers since April 2006, just after their first administration took place. He spoke to BBC Sheffield in September 2009.

Paul Douglas, chief operating officer for Rotherham United FC
Paul Douglas is chief operating officer for Rotherham United FC

He looks after the business side of the club, ensuring that they comply with Football Association and Football League regulations. He tells us why it failed in 2006 and 2008.

So where did all the troubles begin for Rotherham United?

"In 2004/05 Chairman Ken Booth handed over the club to the Millers 05 board. Their hope was that they would take the club to the Championship," he said.

"The business plan centred on a development of a new stand to be funded by the Football Stadium Improvement Fund.

"The team performed poorly. A legacy of high wages and falling gates meant they were unable to raise the revenue to finish the stand but equally they were unable to sustain the football club as a business. Rotherham United went into administration in January 2006.

"Dennis Coleman took over as chairman with a new board. They took the club through administration and clearing the debts, but it didn't work out, both in terms of cost cutting and bringing in new investment.

"Once again the club went into administration in March 2008. We were several weeks from going out of business altogether."

Tony Stewart era

In April 2008 Rotherham United were taken over by local businessman Tony Stewart who saved the club.

"Tony looked at the finances and saw that it could be run better. A financial buffer was needed to allow the changes to be made," Douglas said.

Looking after the club's finances also meant striking an agreement with Millmoor's landlords so that the team could stay at the ground that had been their home since 1907, but despite Stewart's best efforts it just wasn't possible.

"In the short term it meant we had no choice but to find another stadium. The nearest and best option was Don Valley," continued Douglas.

"When we lost Millmoor, we lost the training facility. Facilities for training a team need to be high calibre, hence the move to the Keepmoat. We train in Doncaster, play in Sheffield and operate out of Rotherham."

Rotherham United
The home of operations for the Millers is on an industrial estate

Mark Robins

Former Manchester United striker Mark Robins became manager of Rotherham United in March 2007. He has been very much a key member to Rotherham United's stability and considered a loyal member of the club by Douglas.

"He's been fantastic over the past three years. He came to the club at a very difficult time. It was his first managerial job and he didn't have much finance to work with," he said.

Robins was approached by Barnsley several days after this interview and was confirmed Barnsley manager on the 9th September 2009.

Ronnie Moore took over the reigns as manager and still remains at the club.




SEE ALSO
Plans on show for Millers stadium
14 Apr 10 |  People & Places
Retail plans for council HQ site
13 Apr 10 |  South Yorkshire
Millers buy site for new stadium
28 Jan 10 |  South Yorkshire
Rotherham United leave ground
29 May 08 |  England
Millers into administration
18 Mar 08 |  Rotherham
Fans react to Rotherham move
30 May 08 |  England
Robins placed on gardening leave
06 Sep 09 |  Barnsley


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