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Darlington FC reveals plans to return home
DARLINGTON FC has announced plans to return to its home town next season by sharing facilities with Darlington RFC.
The club revealed its aim of moving to Blackwell Meadows at a fans’ forum on Tuesday evening where supporters were also updated on the Quakers’ financial situation.
Chief executive Martin Jesper said the club had lost £150,000 last year, including the purchase of the club and other one-off costs such as building a team.
He said the finances had now been stabilised - but a move back to Darlington was crucial if the fan-owned model was to succeed.
The club hopes that the move to Blackwell will reduce costs of sharing with Bishop Auckland FC, as well as boosting income by increasing attendances and commercial revenue.
In a joint statement, the directors of Darlington RFC and Darlington FC confirmed they were in the final stages of agreeing heads of terms.
Darlington FC hopes to move during the 2014/15 season once all FA and league facility requirements have been met.
The joint statement said: “Both clubs share the common objective of providing community based sports facilities and opportunities for the benefit of Darlington and surrounding areas.
“The alliance between the clubs now strengthens the ability to achieve this shared objective and comes on the back of many months of work and discussions on both sides.”
The clubs say negotiations are still ongoing on the design, specifications and construction costs of building a ground for the football team.
The statement added: “As the site is already being utilised for sporting activity, this agreement will accelerate the football club’s ability to return to Darlington quickly and in controlled and visible phases.
“Also, given the facilities already in place, the opportunity also exists to grow essential off-field commercial revenues for both clubs though increased footfall and local interest, thereby giving both clubs financial sustainability.”
The clubs’ plans have the backing of the Darlington FC advisory panel which includes MP Jenny Chapman and Northern Echo editor Peter Barron.
The group said it welcomed the “significant progress” being made between the two clubs, adding: “We believe this proposal has exciting potential.
“However, we also recognise the continuing financial challenges facing the club which are being exacerbated by the lack of a home base in Darlington. It is our sincere hope that Quakers supporters will stick with the club and help these challenges to be overcome.”
The plan also has the support of Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon.
He said: “Darlington FC need to be back in Darlington as soon as possible and it makes sense to share a ground - it’s a win, win.”
The forum took place on the same day the 100-year-old Twin Towers – the gateway to Darlington’s former ground at Feethams – were knocked down. The towers will be rebuilt nearby.
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