Licensee beats Covid-19 to open dream pub and win BT Sport Manager of the Month

Carol Donaldson has turned the Railway Hotel into a shrine for Sheffield United fans

An inspiring publican who overcame coronavirus to open her first pub has been crowned BT Sport’s Manager of the Month for September.

Retired nurse Carol Donaldson was fighting for her life in March when she decided that if she recovered from the virus she would follow her dream and open her own business.

A few months later the diehard Sheffield United fan had got the keys to the Railway Hotel on Bramall Lane, the closest pub to her beloved Blades.

The wet-led community local was in a state of disrepair but Carol mobilised support from the 9,000 member strong Facebook group she runs for Sheffield United fans, Blade2Blade.

Members chipped in to help with numerous tasks such as painting and decorating, administration and providing memorabilia.

It means the pub was up and running in time for the kick off to the current Premier League season.

It is now a shrine to her love of both Sheffield United and her daughter Tanya, who died aged 24 after suffering from a rare condition that left her trapped in the body and mind of a four-year-old. 

BT Sport visited Carol at the pub for the recent Yorkshire derby between Sheffield United and Leeds, and although it was a bad result for the home side, Carol was delighted to pick up her reward recognising the incredible efforts she has made to launch a new business during a time of crisis for the trade.

She said: “The pub has given me a lease of life. My daughter had no life and I wanted something for her, she would have loved it.

“I thought in hospital, I have got to do something with my life and to me this is like winning the lottery.

“It’s amazing to win manager of the month. I was a little bit emotional when I won it. It shows that somebody cares about what I have done.”

In just a short space of time Carol has welcomed a huge community of fans to her pub, something that she says is vital during these times.

“It’s so important that fans have somewhere to go and you look around here and it’s all Blades. Covid is stopping a lot now so we need this. 

“Sport is on all day on here. It’s very rare someone says can I have anything else on. The BT Sport subscription was the first thing I thought about when I opened. They love it.”

As well as winning the BT Sport Manager of the Month trophy Carol received a visit from the BT Sport Sprint team to help her with marketing her business in house and online. She also won a £1,000 BT Sport Shop voucher, some of which will be invested in a new TV for the pub.

  • Do you know someone who has what it takes to be a BT Sport Manager of the Month? Perhaps they have made a huge contribution to their community or have revitalised their sports offer to connect with new customers. Tell us why they should win on Twitter by tagging @BTSportBars.

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