Doncaster Rovers Belles L.F.C.

Doncaster Rovers Belles L.F.C.
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Full name Doncaster Rovers Belles
Ladies Football Club
Nickname(s) The Belles
Donny Belles
Founded 1969 (as Belle Vue Belles)
Ground Keepmoat Stadium
(Capacity: 15,231)
President Sheila Edmunds
Vice Chairman Alan Smart
Manager John Buckley
League FA WSL
2011 7th, FA WSL
Website Club home page
Home colours
Away colours
Current season

Doncaster Rovers Belles Ladies Football Club, previously Doncaster Belles, are an English semi-professional Women's association football club based at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. They were admitted to the FA WSL in 2010.

They are one of English women's football's most famous and successful clubs, being one of only two non-London teams to have won the FA Women's Premier League National Division, in 1992 and 1994. Founded in 1969 by lottery ticket sellers at Belle Vue, home of Doncaster Rovers Football Club, they have also won the FA Women's Cup six times and reached the final on a further seven occasions.



Early years

The club was founded as the Belle Vue Belles in 1969, by Sheila Stocks and other women who sold 'Golden Goals' lottery tickets during Doncaster Rovers home games at Belle Vue.[1] After finding success in informal local competition, the club became Doncaster Belles in 1971[2] and joined the Sheffield League in 1972. With the demise of the Sheffield League after three seasons, the Belles joined the Nottinghamshire League setup and dominated for over a decade.[3] Following a reorganisation in 1989, the club won the new North East League in both seasons of its existence, before being invited to join the inaugural eight–team National Division in 1991.[4]

Stocks played for the club for 24 years, hanging up her boots aged 41 after the 1994 Women's FA Cup final.[5] She later served as physiotherapist and club welfare officer.[6] A teacher by trade, she married future Belles manager Paul Edmunds who worked at the same school.[7] In 2008 Sheila was awarded the FA Special Achievement Award.[8]

National dominance

The official programme from a home game against Red Star Southampton on 11 April 1993

The club reached the Women's FA Cup final for the first time in 1983, defeating St Helens 3–2.[3] The Belles then lost the next three successive finals; to Howbury Grange (2–4), Friends of Fulham (0–2) and Norwich (3–4).[9] In May 1987 the club recaptured the trophy, beating St Helens 2–0 at the City Ground in Nottingham. Doncaster Belles retained the Cup in 1987–88 by defeating Merseyside team Leasowe Pacific 3–1. But they missed out on the following year's final, as a resurgent Leasowe inflicted a 3–2 defeat on Friends of Fulham at Old Trafford, in front of Channel 4 television cameras.[10] In 1990 the Belles were back in the final, Gillian Coultard scoring the only goal as Friends of Fulham were beaten at the Baseball Ground in Derby. 1991's final saw the club lose out 1–0 to Millwall Lionesses at Prenton Park.[11]

That summer the Women's Football Association invited the club to affiliate to a new, eight–team National Premier Division. England strikers Karen Walker and Gail Borman scored a combined total of more than 50 goals as the Belles won the inaugural 1991–92 championship with a 100% record.[12] Red Star Southampton were vanquished 4–0 in the WFA Cup final as the club won a League and Cup double.

The following season's League was expanded to 10 teams, and in March 1993 newly–promoted Arsenal inflicted only the Belles' second league defeat in 15 years, 2–1, before a crowd of 18,196 at Highbury.[13] The dropped points, coupled with a shock defeat to Wimbledon, meant that Arsenal captured the National Premier Division title.[14] The following month Arsenal confirmed their dominance by beating Doncaster Belles 3–0 in the WFA Cup final.[15]

In 1993–94 another costly defeat to Arsenal left the Belles needing three wins from their last four games to win the League.[7] This was achieved and the club regained the Premier Division title by four points from second–placed Arsenal.[16] The Belles also relieved Arsenal of the Cup after reaching their 11th Cup final in 12 years—the first to be played under the direct control of the Football Association. Karen Walker's header from a Joanne Broadhurst corner defeated Knowsley United 1–0 at Glanford Park in Scunthorpe.[17] The club was denied the chance of an historic treble, when the season overran and the Premier League Cup final against Arsenal was held over until the following campaign.[18]

Gradual decline

After the Belles' second double in three years, long–serving manager Paul Edmunds considered retirement. He was persuaded to stay when three of the club's top players left for Knowsley United, who had reconstituted as Liverpool Ladies.[19] Edmunds drafted in youngsters Claire Utley from the youth team and Vicky Exley from Sheffield Wednesday, but injuries to key players[20] saw the team limp to a third place finish in the Premier Division.[21] In summer 1995 Edmunds stood down to be replaced by Mel Woodhall.[22] A fixture backlog at the end of season 1995–96 saw Croydon playing five games in ten days, winning four and drawing one to erode the Belles' 13–point lead[23] and win the National Premier Division on goal difference.[24] In March 1996 the Belles played Wembley in the Premier League Cup final. They conceded an injury–time penalty kick to draw 2–2 and then lost the penalty shootout.[25]

In 1997 manager Julie Chipchase ascribed the loss of the Belles' pre–eminent status to a rise in the standards of other teams. In 1996–97 the club had been knocked out of both Cups by eventual winners Millwall Lionesses, and finished second in the League to Arsenal.[26] The next two seasons saw third–placed finishes for the Belles, while 1999–00 resulted in another FA Women's Cup final appearance when holders Arsenal were beaten in the semi–final.[27] The final at Bramall Lane ended in a controversial 2–1 loss to Croydon, after Karen Walker had a penalty saved by Pauline Cope and Croydon scored a disputed winning goal.[28] Five days later Croydon became the first club to retain the National Premier Division title. A 6–0 win over Aston Villa ensured a finish one point ahead of the second–placed Belles.[29]

The next season began with an extensive recruitment drive; as England internationals Becky Easton and Karen Burke arrived from Everton and former stalwart Joanne Broadhurst rejoined the club from Croydon. When Croydon were taken over by Charlton Athletic, their veteran player-manager Debbie Bampton resigned and moved to the Belles in a playing capacity.[30] Although they had finished as runners–up to Croydon in both league and cup, the club were overlooked for a place in the inaugural Charity Shield match. An article in The Guardian described the selection of Charlton Athletic and Arsenal as curious and related to unspecified "commercial reasons".[31] The 2000–01 National Premier Division campaign saw the Belles return to top form, maintaining a 100% record until April, when a 1–0 home defeat to Arsenal handed the initiative to their southern rivals.[32] Arsenal also knocked the Belles out of both cup competitions on their way to a domestic treble. In May 2001 a presentation marked the retirement of club captain Gillian Coultard.[33]

Doncaster Belles did receive an invite to the 2001–02 Charity Shield, where they were beaten 5–2 by Arsenal at Kingsmeadow.[34] Goalkeeper Leanne Hall conceded a penalty, after her challenge on Clare Wheatley left the Arsenal player with a career–ending knee injury. Two weeks later at the teams' next meeting both sides lined up in tribute and Hall presented Wheatley with a bouquet of flowers. The match finished in a 4–1 defeat for the Belles.[35]

Merger with Doncaster Rovers

The merger was considered at a meeting between representatives of both clubs on 3 April 2002, followed by EGMs five days later.[36] In January 2003, Belles chairman John Gomersall met with the FA women's committee to discuss the merger.[37] In July 2003 the Doncaster Belles website announced the merger's completion. Under the terms of the agreement, the Belles would retain their financial and strategic independence. They also secured agreements to play a portion of home games at Belle Vue, to use the male club's Cantley Park training facility and to sell merchandise in Rovers' club shop.[38]

John Buckley era

Doncaster Rovers Belles playing at Keepmoat Stadium in the FA WSL

In the 2008–09 season, they finished fourth in the league.

On 26 February 2009, the team played in the final of the Women's FA Premier League Cup but lost 5–0 to Arsenal Ladies.

The club was one of eight founding teams in the FA WSL in April 2011.[39]

Colours and crest

Crest from the Doncaster Belles era pre-2003
Doncaster Belles' original home colours (1969–2005)

The club's traditional colours are yellow and blue.[40] Since the link-up with Doncaster Rovers in 2005, however, the team has worn their current red and white hooped shirt with black shorts.


Doncaster Rovers Belles enjoy a longstanding rivalry with Arsenal Ladies,[41] who eventually overtook the Belles as the leading club in English women's football.[42] In 1994, the Belles' manager Paul Edmunds contrasted the northern, working class background of his players with the contrasting identity of the Arsenal team: "These soft Cockneys never done a hard day's work in their life. Never been down the pit, this lot [...]"[20] Stressing the relative loyalty of Doncaster Belles' players, in comparison to those of other leading clubs, long-serving Karen Walker said in May 2003: "There's a feeling here that we are representing the north."[43]

During the 2000s Doncaster Rovers Belles contested regular local derby fixtures with Leeds United Ladies. The rivalry was increased by several former Belles players defecting to Leeds.[44] However, the 2010 failure of Leeds' WSL bid left Doncaster Rovers Belles as the only Yorkshire club playing at the top level.[45]


Current home of Doncaster Rovers Belles – the Keepmoat Stadium

Since 2007 the home of Doncaster Rovers Belles has been the Keepmoat Stadium, although the majority of the team's matches have been played at the 500–capacity athletics track beside the stadium.[46] In January 2007 the club's first match in the 15,000–capacity main stadium resulted in a 5–2 defeat to Leeds United, before a crowd of 1,797.[42] Doncaster Rovers Belles are to play all their home fixtures in the 2011 FA WSL inside the main arena.[47]

When the English women's football setup was nationalised in 1991, the Belles became the first team to play their home games in a professional Football League ground at Belle Vue. However, they were often barred from doing so by Doncaster Rovers F.C. and had to find local non–League grounds in order to fulfil their fixtures.

For many years the team played at the Welfare Ground, home of Armthorpe Welfare F.C.,[26][24] and in 2002 were playing at Brodsworth Welfare Ground, home of Brodsworth Welfare F.C..[48] The 1999–00 season was spent playing at Hatfield Main F.C.'s Broadway ground.[49]

In 1999 the club announced proposals for a purpose–built stadium at Toll Bar.[50] The following year Doncaster Council granted the club a lease of some land in the area.[51] The £1.6 million project was intended for the FA's launch of a professional women's League in 2003.[30]

In popular culture

A BBC television documentary screened in January 1995, called The Belles, featured the squad winning and then celebrating their double win the previous Spring.[52] However, the 'work hard, play hard' ethos revealed in the film did not find universal favour and the club was censured by the FA. Team captain Gillian Coultard felt the film led to her being controversially stripped of the England captaincy in the run-up to the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup.

The following year a book entitled I Lost My Heart To The Belles told the story of the club's 1994–95 campaign through the eyes of journalist and author Pete Davies.[2] In April 2000 the Doncaster Rovers Belles squad released the first ever FA Women's Cup final song, entitled "Northern Pride".[53]

In 1998 the BBC television drama series Playing the Field began. Directly inspired by Doncaster Rovers Belles,[2] it was written by Kay Mellor, starred James Nesbitt and Ricky Tomlinson, and ran for five series' until 2002.

In 2008 Doncaster Rovers Belles defender Natasha Hughes embarked on a modelling career.[54]

Current squad

[55] Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
2 Scotland DF Rhonda Jones
3 England DF Shelly Cox
8 England MF Vicky Exley
10 England FW Katie Anderton
No. Position Player
12 England MF Kasia Lipka
14 Canada DF Kylla Sjoman
15 England DF Victoria Williams

Out on loan

Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
4 England MF Katie Holtham (on loan at Perth Glory)[56]
5 England FW Jessica Sigsworth (on loan at Sheffield Wednesday)[57]
7 England FW Becky Hall (on loan at Wolves Women)
9 Republic of Ireland FW Áine O'Gorman (on loan at Peamount United)[58]
11 England MF Precious Hamilton (on loan at Derby County)[59]
13 England GK Mary Earps (on loan at Coventry City)[60]
16 England DF Naomi Chadwick (on loan at Sheffield Wednesday)
17 England FW Bethany England (on loan at Sheffield Wednesday)[61]
19 England FW Millie Bright (on loan at Leeds United)[62]

Former players

For details of former players, see Category:Doncaster Rovers Belles L.F.C. players.

English Football Hall of Fame

The following have played for Doncaster Rovers Belles and have been inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame :


Last updated: 4 August 2011
Source: list of NFM Hall of Fame inductees


In June 2003 former Celtic, Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers footballer John Buckley took over as manager.[63]

Current technical staff

As of 26 July 2011[55]
Name Job title
Scotland John Buckley Manager
England Paul Green Assistant Manager
England Scott Duncanson First Team Coach
England Duncan Milligan Coach
England Matthew Hall-Naylor Physiotherapist


Doncaster Rovers Belles won two of the first three National Division titles in 1992 and 1994. They have also finished as runners-up on seven further occasions; in 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.

The FA Women's Cup has been won six times, during a period of dominance which saw the Belles reach eleven out of twelve Cup finals from 1983 to 1994. Doncaster Rovers Belles also reached the finals in 2000 and 2002, but lost out to Croydon and Fulham, respectively. Their record in the competition is behind that of Arsenal Ladies, who have 11 wins in total, and Southampton, who were victorious eight times in the early years of the competition.[9]

The club has been less successful in the FA Women's Premier League Cup, reaching the final three times. A loss on penalties to Wembley in 1996 came between two heavy defeats to Arsenal in 1994 and 2009.

Doncaster Rovers Belles also competed for the FA Women's Community Shield in 2001 and 2003, but were beaten by Arsenal and then Fulham.





  1. ^ a b c Up until 1991, there was no top national division of English women's football; from then, until the formation of the FA WSL in 2010, it was the FA Women's Premier League National Division. The FA only took over the direct running of the domestic league structure from the WFA in 1993.


  1. ^ Hayley Paterson (2009-02-19). "Belles hit their stride again at 40". Doncaster Free Press. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  2. ^ a b c "Club history". Doncaster Rovers Belles. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  3. ^ a b "Doncaster Rovers Belles FC - History". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  4. ^ Davies (1996). p. 19. 
  5. ^ Davies (1996). p. 22. 
  6. ^ "Torch Trophy Trust Awards Recipients". Torch Trophy Trust. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  7. ^ a b Pete Davies (1994-05-23). "Football: Belles face tough run-in: The women's National Premier League is being fought to a tight finish. Pete Davies reports". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-05-23. 
  8. ^ "Winners revealed". 2008-05-23. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  9. ^ a b Eric Garin (2009-05-21). "England - List of Women Cup Winners". Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  10. ^ "Women want cup run". Everton FC. 2004-01-02. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  11. ^ Joan Ruddock (1991-04-29). "MILLWALL LIONESSES FA CUP VICTORY". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2011-03-06. 
  12. ^ "1991-1992". The Owl Football Historian. Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  13. ^ Clive White (1993-03-29). "Football: Gunners on target as fans are won over: Once banned by the FA, the code will soon be back in the fold: Clive White watches the women of Arsenal close on the title after a 2-1 defeat of Doncaster Belles". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  14. ^ "1992-1993". The Owl Football Historian. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  15. ^ Sam Elliott (1993-04-25). "Football / Women's FA Cup Final: Arsenal on trail of the treble: Shipp stands firm as the Belles rue lack of a finishing touch: Sam Elliott reports from Oxford". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  16. ^ "1993-1994". The Owl Football Historian. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  17. ^ Rudd, Alyson (25-04-1994). "Football: Belles bring class to bear: Doncaster dominate women's FA Cup final". London: The Independent. Retrieved 14-10-2010. 
  18. ^ Davies (1996). p. 68. 
  19. ^ Davies (1996). p. 8. 
  20. ^ a b Pete Davies (1994-10-24). "Football: Arsenal see off sad Doncaster: Pete Davies finds some intense rivalry in the women's game". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  21. ^ "1994-1995". The Owl Football Historian. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  22. ^ Pete Davies (1995-08-30). "Football: New year for Belles of the ball". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  23. ^ Hans Schöggl (2008-12-12). "England (Women) 1995/96". Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  24. ^ a b Pete Davies (1996-09-01). "Season to attract crowds for Arsenal's ladies man". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  25. ^ Pete Davies (1996-03-11). "Wembley's flair rewarded in shoot-out". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-08-09. 
  26. ^ a b Pete Davies (1997-09-07). "Football: New year for Belles of the ball". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  27. ^ Simon Burnton (2000-04-30). "Explain...". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  28. ^ Sarah Hughes (2000-05-02). "Hunt keeps Croydon on double track". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  29. ^ Colin Aldis (2000-03-25). "The 'Belles' break record of Final appearances". Women's Soccer World. Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  30. ^ a b Sue Thearle (2001-01-19). "Belles back in business". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  31. ^ Vivek Choudary (2000-08-05). "To be or not to be an Addick". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  32. ^ Tony Leighton (2001-04-15). "Arsenal strike title blow". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  33. ^ Tony Leighton (2001-05-20). "Coulthard bows out as season ends". BBC Sport. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  34. ^ Tony Leighton (2001-08-11). "Arsenal Ladies 5-2 Doncaster". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  35. ^ Tony Leighton (2001-08-26). "Arsenal see off Belles again". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  36. ^ "Belles and Rovers finish level". Doncaster Free Press. 2002-03-27. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  37. ^ Paula Cocozza (2003-01-06). "Women's Football". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  38. ^ "The Rovers/Belles merger". 2003-07-11. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  39. ^ "Lincoln Ladies FA Women's Super League bid success". BBC. 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2010-04-02. 
  40. ^ "Doncaster's Blue and Yellow Army". Doncaster Free Press. 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  41. ^ "Women's FA Charity Shield: Arsenal v Doncaster Belles". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  42. ^ a b Tony Leighton (2007-01-15). "Belles ring changes at new home". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  43. ^ Anjana Gadjil (May 2003). "Independent Women? Not At Donny Belles". China Club Football. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  44. ^ Tony Leighton (2007-01-14). "Football: Grounds for hope at Donny". Sunday Mirror. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  45. ^ Tony Leighton (2010-01-30). "Doncaster Belles' fortunes revive as they look for Super League spot". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  46. ^ Esther Leach (2010-05-23). "Doncaster Belles in a League of their own". Yorkshire Life. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  47. ^ "Countdown to Super League!". Doncaster Free Press. 2011-01-06. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  48. ^ Paula Cocozza (2002-08-19). "Women's football". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  49. ^ "Belles Ring in the New". Doncaster Free Press. 2000-09-21. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  50. ^ "CHERIE BLAIR BACKS BELLES' STADIUM BID". Doncaster Free Press. 1999-10-21. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  51. ^ Dominic Fifield (2000-04-01). "Belles prepare ground for their own Vue". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  52. ^ Giles Smith (1995-01-08). "Sport on TV : Women on upswing as Belles have a ball". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  53. ^ Martin Wainwright (2000-04-28). "Belles sing out". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  54. ^ Gavin Clicksman (2008-02-22). "Hughes that lovely lady?". The Sun. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  55. ^ a b "The Team". Doncaster Rovers Belles. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  56. ^ "Skipper Goes Down Under". Doncaster Rovers Belles. 2011-10-18. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  57. ^ "England Startlet checks in at S6". Sheffield Wednesday Women FC. 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  58. ^ "Aine Makes Loan Move Home". Doncaster Rovers Belles. 2011-09-18. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  59. ^ "Presh Makes Loan Move Home". Doncaster Rovers Belles. 2011-09-24. Retrieved 2011-09-24. 
  60. ^ "Mary Joins Coventry On Loan". Doncaster Rovers Belles. 2011-10-29. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  61. ^ "Beth Joins Owls On Loan". Doncaster Rovers Belles. 2011-10-23. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  62. ^ Jen O'Neill (2011-08-22). "Chris Welburn/Leeds Utd Ladies Manager". She Kicks. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  63. ^ "Ex Rovers Star is New Belles Boss". Doncaster Free Press. 2003-06-19. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 


  • Davies, Pete (1996). I Lost My Heart To The Belles. Mandarin. ISBN 0-7493-2085-0. 

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