Alarm Belles as manager Buckley appeals for Doncaster investment

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DONCASTER Rovers Belles manager John Buckley says a ‘John Ryan’ figure is needed to safeguard the club’s future.

The Belles finished next to bottom of the inaugural FA Women’s Super League and chairman Jonathan James stepped down in the summer.

With no sign of fresh investment, Buckley has issued a personal plea for help.

The former Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers winger, who has been in charge of team affairs at the club for eight years, says the ideal scenario would involve a wealthy local businessman or woman taking over the Belles and moving the club forward.

He accepts Rovers chairman John Ryan is focused on the Championship club but is convinced that someone with a similar passion for football in Doncaster can ensure the club’s succes story continues.

The Belles, who were formed in 1969, dominated women’s football in the Eighties and became the inspiration for the BBC television drama Playing The Field.

But, in more recent years, they have struggled to compete against the financial resources of other clubs in the country and, despite playing at the 15,000-capacity Keepmoat Stadium, home gates have dropped to under 400.

Buckley said: “If we don’t find a new investor in the next few months I genuinely fear we will finish bottom of the league next season – and that would be a crying shame for the most famous women’s club in English football.

“We have got some great young players but we can’t live with a lot of other clubs when it comes to the wages now.

“This season, we lost two of our best players to Birmingham because they were offering three or four times more money.

“A new chairman doesn’t need to provide major finance,” he added. “That would help but what is just as important is they understand the history of the club, have the right contacts and the commercial know-how to offer guidance so we can progress.”

The Belles, who have no debt, were one of eight clubs awarded a two-year Super League franchise and there is no relegation until 2013.

The Football Association support the eight clubs to the tune of £70,000 a season but expect clubs to match that funding and be self-supportive to keep the franchise.

Assistant manager Scott Duncanson said: “We have reached the point where we need to push on because no one at this club wants things to go backwards.”

Vice-chairman Alan Smart has been handling affairs since James stepped down and he said: “This is a challenge with potential rewards for the right man, woman, or group of individuals. At the moment, we can survive but there is an ambition to do more than simply survive.”