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Quakers to leave Darlington
THE Quakers’ stay in a stadium built for the Premier League appears to be over after the fans’ company bidding to buy the club announced its intention to move out of the Darlington Arena.
Nine years after the club moved from Feethams to the 25,000-seater venue, Darlington FC 1883 (DFC 1883) yesterday confirmed that it was looking for a temporary home outside the town for next season.
However, DFC 1883 said it planned to move back to Darlington as soon as a permanent venue could be found.
Craig McKenna, DFC 1883 board member and project manager, announced yesterday afternoon that a decision to move from the Arena – if the purchase went ahead – had been agreed by the interim board.
He said: “A decision on where we will be playing has not yet been taken and all options are being explored.
“The options vary depending on which league we will be playing at, and we’re taking advice from the FA regarding this.
“As always, DFC 1883 are more than happy to hear any thoughts that the fans have on the options.”
DFC 1883 has been approached by a number of clubs in the region willing to discuss a groundshare.
Mr McKenna stressed that any groundshare would only be on a temporary basis, with a return to playing games in Darlington coming as soon as “practical and viable”.
Mr McKenna said tentative discussions with Darlington Rugby Union Club about sharing its Blackwell Meadows site had already begun, although he added that other options would be considered.
He added: “We thank the Arena owners, Graham Scott and Philip Sizer, for their efforts to find a lease that will work, but it’s now been mutually agreed that staying at the Arena for next season is no longer viable when all factors are taken into consideration.”
The football club’s departure from the Arena was last night confirmed by the owners, who did not reveal what the future holds for the venue.
They said in a statement: “We were notified on Monday by DFC 1883 that it was unlikely that it would be proceeding with the very favourable leasing agreement that was being discussed.
“We understand that the focus of DFC 1883’s plans have changed and playing at the Arena indefinitely is no longer a viable option.
“We have given the football club a high level of support for some time and, as shareholders in DFC 1883, we look forward to a resolution which offers a sustainable future for football in Darlington.”
DFC 1883 is understood to be on the verge of buying the football club’s assets from administrator Harvey Madden.
However, it is not yet known if this will involve the signing of a company voluntary arrangement with outgoing chairman and major creditor, Raj Singh, at a meeting planned for Friday.
Mr Singh wants certain conditions in return for writing off the £800,000 he is owed, including a clause which would give him any future money resulting from the sale of defender Dan Burn to Fulham.
If DFC 1883 buys the club without a CVA in place, the FA is likely to further punish the Quakers with a demotion to the Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division, or potentially even further down the football pyramid.
The FA was yesterday unable to confirm the implications if the purchase went ahead without the CVA.
A spokesman said: “The FA continues to work with the administrator and with the purchasers of Darlington FC in relation to the insolvency of the club, including the CVA proposal.”
Darlington FC moved to the Arena in August 2003 after the stadium was financed by then chairman and former safecracker and kitchen worktop millionaire George Reynolds, who said at the time: “My intentions for Darlington are to build this ultra-modern stadium and then take the team from the third division to the Premier League.”
Initially called the Reynolds Arena, the stadium has never proved popular with fans who fill just a fraction of the ground. It has also proved extremely costly to run, with the gas bill alone reported to be £5,000 a month. Mr Singh said in January that the costs of running the stadium were integral to his decision to call in the administrators.