Tony Stewart: Rotherham United don't 'cheat' to succeed in Championship but play by the rules

AMONG ROTHERHAM United supporters, there is a long-running joke on Twitter.

It refers to the propensity for sections of the football media - usually national - and rival fans to use the phrase 'teams like Rotherham' when referring to the Millers in a patronising way during their Championship travels.

In reality, clubs like Rotherham are path-finders and offer hope to all aspiring mid-ranking English Football League sides. They don't load themselves with debt or circumvent financial rules either.

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They are run properly. Leading football finance expert Kieran Maguire labelled them as 'the smartest club in the Championship' following publication of their latest accounts earlier this year.

Doing it the right way: Rotherham United players celebrate staying in the Championship with a game to spare, following their 1-0 win over Middlesbrough on Monday, much to the delight of chairman Tony Stewart (Picture: Simon Hulme)Doing it the right way: Rotherham United players celebrate staying in the Championship with a game to spare, following their 1-0 win over Middlesbrough on Monday, much to the delight of chairman Tony Stewart (Picture: Simon Hulme)
Doing it the right way: Rotherham United players celebrate staying in the Championship with a game to spare, following their 1-0 win over Middlesbrough on Monday, much to the delight of chairman Tony Stewart (Picture: Simon Hulme)

It's the sort of thing that chairman Tony Stewart, a successful businessman in his own right, is sure to take great pride in - and so he should.

Retaining their second-tier status this week and breaking their promotion-relegation cycle is worth between £6m and £7m to the Millers.

It will help in their bid to consolidate at this level as they strive to emulate the likes of Luton Town and Coventry City further down the line.

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For the time being, there is a feeling of satisfaction that Rotherham have achieved their aims by maintaining order both on the pitch and off it.

The Rotherham players celebrate staying up (Picture: Simon Hulme)The Rotherham players celebrate staying up (Picture: Simon Hulme)
The Rotherham players celebrate staying up (Picture: Simon Hulme)

Stewart told The Yorkshire Post: "With the way we run it, I'd like to think that not only do we get value for money, but are not silly. I am not a gambler. I am high-stakes, but not a gambler.

"We see too often that clubs over-exert themselves and there are examples in the league where clubs have been penalised.

"I'd like to think we stick to the rules.

"Clubs like Rotherham do things right and sometimes, others think 'hang on, we need to “cheat” to stay in this league'.

Tony Stewart. Picture: Getty ImagesTony Stewart. Picture: Getty Images
Tony Stewart. Picture: Getty Images
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"To do it right and stay in this league is tough. We've seen people who've made short-cuts and put money in and done certain things that cheat.

"They are getting players who they cannot support and when the Football League does the post-mortem, they get penalised.

"I am looking forward to the implementation of the (Government) white paper which will (help) bring more investment.

"But a lot of it will cover disciplines and I think we are short of those disciplines to prevent things happening before they do rather than after.

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"This white paper will hopefully not just create more faith, but put in the disciplines we're lacking at the moment.

"In 15 years, we've learnt a lot. We've seen in football that you can 'invest' and do a lot of things. Derby is a good example (previously) where you can throw money at it and not only be static, but frowned on by fans and whatever.

"As a custodian of Rotherham United, I've got a duty along with the board to make sure we keep our noses clean and we do everything in accordance with the books."

For Stewart, the even harder part comes now. After avoiding a third successive instant return to League One, the new mission is to incrementally grow in a league top-heavy with ex-Premier League clubs.

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They possess a young, hungry and ambitious manager in Matt Taylor. Stewart may be rather more senior, but his energy and enthusiasm is still undimmed after 15 years at the helm.

He continued: "For me, it's in for a penny, in for a pound. I can't be half-in and half-out.

"I talk to some chairmen and it crucifies them when they lose games and when they go down and this, that and the other.

"I am a bit more thick-skinned now and composed. It's a good time at Rotherham and we can go to Wigan with our heads held high (on Monday).

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"It will be a nice three months for all the fans, board and players. Watch this space.

"It'll be a clean sheet for the manager to say 'right, this is my decision now to get in the players we need' after three-quarters of a season in the Championship.

"He'll have more knowledge. I'm looking forward to the recruitment people coming up with players who they think we need not just to hold on in the Championship, but climb up that ladder.

"We can't forget it's been a season where we lost a manager and brought a new one in. The manager had just come from League Two to League One so it was a challenge to him.

"But I had a good feeling when I interviewed him.

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"He's not a talker, he's a thinker. He has a degree in sport from Sheffield (Hallam) University and is a serious-minded guy.

"He has a little boy at eight months and a lovely wife and had to make that decision to come north from Exeter and came up in no time and got accommodation.

"It's been incredible for him in picking up from Paul Warne and getting through to where we are."