Doncaster Rovers Belles have announced multi-million pound plans for a state-of-the-art training facility and full-time, professional contracts to a number of its players – for the first time in the club’s history.
Having been a pioneering figure in the women’s game for over 45 years, the six-time FA Women’s Cup winners and twice Women’s Premier League champions are continuing their rich tradition of trailblazing by spearheading ambitious plans to build the first dedicated elite women’s training facility in the UK.
And having risen from the ashes following the club’s ill-fated 2013 league disappointment, the aptly-named ‘Project Phoenix’ will see approximately 10 players given full-time, professional football contracts – a first for the club following their fledgling beginnings in 1969.
The brand new facility will be based near Bawtry with plans for a mix of five grass and artificial pitches of varying sizes, a physiotherapy room, dressing rooms, an indoor heated pool, ice baths, a gym, residential rooms and offices. The training centre will be named the Belle Vue Belles, in honour of the original name of the Belles and the ground where they were first formed from lottery ticket sellers at Doncaster Rovers matches.
Players will have first priority on the facilities, enabling full-time training and housing opportunities. The project incorporates plans, it is hoped, which will lead to the development of a Centre of Excellence to bring through the next generation of Belles stars.
The game-changing plans have been made a reality by investment provided personally by Doncaster-born Carl Lygo and his wife Faye – who is the club’s Chair Lady.
Carl said: “We are building a long-term legacy for women’s football in South Yorkshire which will ensure that the Belles can more than compete at the highest level. It will be a community resource for the development of grassroots women’s football and coaches as well as supporting the elite game.
“I wanted to put something back into my hometown to help the name of Doncaster be recognised around the world as a leader in women’s sport. The facility will enable the club to have its own standalone operation and they will never again have to face the threat of insolvency.”
The news comes as BPP Professional Education Group – which Mr Lygo is chief executive of – has committed to sponsoring the Belles for a further two seasons, taking them through every kick during the club’s 2016 and 2017 FAWSL campaigns.
Building work is set to begin imminently with the aim of completing the first phase in early 2016 so the club can begin preparation for life in FAWSL1.
This report courtesy of Doncaster Rovers Belles