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.”
Faye commented: “I am extremely proud of the whole Belles team, both on and off the pitch. We have strong footballing and business strategies and our new facility pulls everything together. We recognise the importance of creating a quality, flexible and effective full time training approach and have been working with some amazing female coaches in our mentoring scheme. The facility also enables the club to cement its own stability, creating an independent, self sustaining business model, where the possibilities are almost endless! The club has much to offer, so, to be able to create this exciting opportunity for the club and make such a statement in support of women's elite sport is an honour.”
Belles boss Glen Harris explained: “It’s really exciting news. We’ve been looking forward to this for the last few months and now it’s come to fruition. It gives us a base and a home for next season with the facilities there to ensure our full-time training players have got the appropriate training facilities and the appropriate equipment, and we can push on as a club.”
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.