Doncaster Rovers
Belle Vue

Ground No. 72
Visited - Saturday 1st October 2005
Result - Doncaster Rovers 2-2 Bradford City
Competition - Coca-Cola League 1
Attendance - 6800

With the Wolves game originally planned for the Saturday having been put back 24 hours, it gave me the opportunity to visit another ground, and so after having a look down the fixture list, I decided on the Yorkshire derby of Doncaster vs Bradford. Having left the Vetch Field until its final day, and in the end missing out on a Wolves game to do it, then I didn’t want to leave Belle Vue (or to give it it’s official title, The Earth Stadium), until I was in a similar situation as with Swansea, so was glad of this opportunity to see the ground before it finally succumbed to the bulldozers.

As usual when travelling on my own, I’d decided to leave home early, so it was around 8:15am, when I was standing on the platform at Wolverhampton, waiting for the train down to Birmingham, before changing there up to Doncaster. The journey went fairly well, and we arrived into the town on time, just after 11am. After leaving the station, I set off on the fair walk up to the ground, arriving with relative ease to find the back of the Main Stand, which as is well documented, looking rather run down to say the least. Undeterred by this though, I set off around the ground taking pictures, and after finding an open gate, went in, and was able to go all around covering just about everything there was, even managing to get into the executive boxes behind the Town End, to get a few pictures from an elevated position.

Once inside, despite clearly not being the greatest ground in the league, it was nowhere near as bad as I had actually imagined it to be. The most prominent feature is the Main Stand, which has a fair sized strip of terracing running the full length of the pitch, and situated behind that, an elevated section of seating (which was surprisingly constructed out of wood), and over both of these areas, a large roof giving shelter to both the seats, and the terrace, although only the central section of terracing. Behind both goals, were two similar looking areas of terracing, both open, and neither stretching that far back, although behind the Town End Terrace, was the aforementioned ‘Executive Boxes’, or to be more precise, two levels of portacabins stacked on top of each other, and running for the width of the pitch. Despite not exactly being quite what you would expect for executive facilities, they did offer some character to the ground, and made it look better than the Rossington End opposite. Completing the picture, along the side opposite the Main Stand, was the Popular Terrace. Like with the two ends, the terracing didn’t stretch back that far, but unlike the end stands, it was covered by a roof that ran for the length of the pitch. Added to this at the Rossington End, was a small section of uncovered terracing, and a grassy bank stretching around the corner of the pitch. All in all, it certainly wasn’t one of the most imposing venues that I’ve visited, but it really wasn’t as bad as its often said to be, with the terraces being in good condition, and all of the facilities not looking that bad at all, with the only downside being the openness of the ground.

After leaving the inside of the stadium, and paying a quick trip to the club shop, there was some time to pop behind the Popular Terrace and see the overgrown terracing that continued behind that, but was clearly abandoned a long time ago.

Having finished taking pictures there, it was back to the town centre, to take up a few hours before coming back to the stadium, and going into the Town End, where I’d booked tickets for several days earlier.

Thankfully the weather was holding out, and it was fairly sunny when the game kicked off, with the teams changing halves, and Bradford attacking our end. Both teams were looking to attack, and from the off it was end to end action, with Doncaster looking the most dangerous, but it was the visitors who eventually took the lead, just before half-time, when Tom Kearney hit a good shot into the corner of the net. Half-time itself was perhaps the most interesting time up until that point, with two American wrestlers plugging an event in the area having the crowd howling with laughter (some were literally rolling around on the floor!) at their attempts to connect with the crowd (think Americans, think football, or soccer, and you can probably work out the rest!). They were eventually (and thankfully!) silenced when the Doncaster mascot, a large dog, jumped one of them, and started wrestling with him on the pitch!

After that entertainment, the second half got started, and within a minute Bradford had doubled their lead. After good work down the left, veteran striker Steve Claridge poked home a shot from a crowded area in front of the visiting fans. At that, the hosts seemed to rally, and took the game by the scruff of the neck, pinning back Bradford in their own half. The pressure paid off, when on 54 minutes, as the ball was cleared from the area, Ricky Ravenhill popped up from about 25 yards out to volley the ball right back into the top corner of the Bradford net. It was a superb goal, and with it the ground was buzzing, as Doncaster looked for the equaliser. It wasn’t long though before Ravenhill was once again the centre of attention, this time after a bad challenge saw him receive a second yellow card from the referee, who sent him off for an early bath. Undeterred by losing their goalscorer, the home side carried on pressing, and on 69 minutes, with a corner swung in from the right hand side, they made it 2-2 when Nick Fenton smashed the ball home in front of the Doncaster fans. This seemed to be a slap in the face for Bradford, and from the kick-off they started pressing to regain their lead, but despite being restricted to 10 men, Doncaster didn’t succumb to their advances, and after 5 minutes of injury time, the referee blew for full time.

Throughout, there had been a fair amount of banter from the fans around me, but the atmosphere wasn’t great, mostly due to the openness of the ground, but it was all good natured, and almost like going back in time 20 years, with fans openly drinking beer on the terraces in glass bottles that they’d sneaked into the ground (and I was worried about a half empty plastic water bottle in my bag!), but there was no sign of any trouble, inside or out. One thing that did reasonably impress me was how noticeable it was that the club attracted a number of young and female fans. You certainly wouldn’t have said that it was a family orientated club, there didn’t seem to be many families, but groups of young people in their teens, clearly having just spent the day out at the game, which is something that somehow seems rare these days, certainly at bigger grounds, where tickets have to be booked well in advance, and that’s if they can be afforded by youngsters in the first place.

After leaving the ground, it was a quick walk back to the town centre, and station, before finally getting back on a train for the journey home, which went fairly well.

Overall, it was quite a good day out. The ground is by no means the best, but it isn’t half as bad as I had expected, and it was good to see it at least once before Doncaster move out to their new ground next year. Although it's not a ground I really found myself falling in love with, like say at Swansea last season, it is one that I may well make an effort to revisit before the bulldozers finally move in.

Welcome to Belle Vue!

Rear of the Main Stand

The Club Shop

Home End Turnstiles

Rear of the Town End Terrace

Rear of the Popular Terrace

Abandoned Terracing at the rear of the Popular Terrace

To the Away End

The Main Stand

The Main Stand

The Rossington End

Looking across the Rossington End

The Popular Terrace

Snack Bar

The Town End Terrace

Looking across the Popular Terrace

Looking across the Town End Terrace

The Main Stand

The Rossington End

The Popular Terrace

Time to go!

Belle Vue Panoramic 1
(click here for full size picture)

Belle Vue Panoramic 2
(click here for full size picture)

December 2008

Following Doncaster's move from Belle Vue to the brand new Keepmoat Stadium, then unlike many old grounds, no houses, retail parks or any other such like developments had been planned for the site, instead just leaving it as it was to rot at the hands of time and the local chavs. Various parts had of course been removed, most of the metal sold for scrap and the Main Stand completely demolished following a gas explosion in 2007, but the terraces were still in situ when Wolves were due to play Donny following their promotion to the Championship.

Unfortunately, I hadn't had the chance to visit on my first trip to the Keepmoat. At that time, access to the site was unrestricted, so I was looking forward to seeing it this time, however once there it was a bit disheartening to find that now in place is a huge security fence around the entire perimeter meaning you can only look in from the outside, but good views are still afforded, and you can clearly still make out the ground and where the stands were. The pitch itself is still in good condition, however the terraces, stripped of crush barriers, exit gates and all the other signage are a sad sight, overgrown by weeds and chipped away in parts, with lumps of concrete lying around, waiting to be cleared up for good.

What will happen with it remains to be seen. The old car park is currently a building site for a new road, but there doesn't seem to be any plans for the ground itself, so whilst the club plays at their shiny new stadium 15 minutes down the road, then their old home of 84 years lies neglected, with crowds pouring into it every other Saturday only a dim memory now.

Looking across the Car Park to where the Main Stand stood
(roughly the same position as picture 2 further up)

Steps up to the Main Stand Terracing

The Town End Turnstiles

The Town End

The Popular Terrace

The Town End

The Rossington End

The Main Stand

Belle Vue Panoramic 3

Belle Vue Panoramic 4


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