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Rugby club agrees to groundshare with Quakers

MAKING PLANS: From left Tony Stowe, from Darlington Rugby Club, Peter Griffin, director of facilities for rugby club, John Tempest, from Darlington CIC, Michael Wilkinson, chairman of the rugby club, and Martin Jesper, director of Darlington FC.

MAKING PLANS: From left Tony Stowe, from Darlington Rugby Club, Peter Griffin, director of facilities for rugby club, John Tempest, from Darlington CIC, Michael Wilkinson, chairman of the rugby club, and Martin Jesper, director of Darlington FC.

First published in Sport Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Regional Chief Reporter

DARLINGTON RFC has agreed to share its ground with the town’s football club.

Members of the rugby club voted in favour of the groundshare at a meeting at Blackwell Meadows tonight.

The decision means the Quakers will now be able to begin working towards moving back to Darlington next season after a two-year enforced absence when the club played its home games at Bishop Auckland FC’s Heritage Park.

A statement issued by the rugby club said: “A vote taken, at a specially convened extraordinary general meeting, witnessed a majority of the member’s voting in favour of welcoming Darlington FC to Blackwell Meadows for the benefit of sport in Darlington and both codes of rugby and association football.

“This is a big step towards creating a community sports hub for Darlington and both parties are positive this is a deal that will benefit both clubs, and the community, enormously.

“Negotiations will continue with regards to final clubhouse and ground development and plans will be released in due course.”

After the vote, Darlington RFC chairman Michael Wilkinson said: "It's the biggest vote this club had to make in many a year and we're delighted that we're able with the membership to go forward with the proposal to bring Darlington FC back to Darlington - and in particular Blackwell Meadows."

And he added: "The hard work starts now."

The football club said it was “delighted” with the decision.

A statement said: “With all parties now totally committed to ensuring that the potential at Blackwell Meadows is to be fully exploited for the benefit of both clubs and the wider community, we are delighted that we can push on with the significant work that has already been carried out to date with the intention of bringing the football club back to Darlington as soon as practicable.”

It is understood plans will shortly be submitted for approval to Darlington Borough Council ahead of work to upgrade the ground ready for the football club’s arrival.

The Quakers have previously revealed that it was crucial the club returned to Darlington in order for it to cut costs and increase revenues.

Although senior officers at the rugby club backed the groundshare plan, some members had raised concerns that the football club would take over.

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