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Darlington FC face liquidation today with noon offer deadline
DARLINGTON FC is facing liquidation today after the company bidding to buy the club was given a noon deadline to proceed with its offer.
Although Darlington FC (DFC) 1883 was confident that it was in a position to buy the club yesterday morning, it is understood that complications last night have reduced the chances of a successful purchase.
Instead, DFC 1883 may decide to allow the club to be liquidated and then attempt to form a phoenix club.
In a further development, 1883 has asked share scheme manager Crowdcube to begin proceedings to return money to investors who have bought shares worth more than £325,000.
DFC 1883 board member and project manager Craig McKenna last night remained determined that the community company would ensure Darlington had a football team next season.
He said: “On four different occasions this week, we felt we had a deal in place that would work. However, we have found obstacles in our way. Yet again, on Wednesday morning at the 11th hour, an obstacle has been put in our way.
“DFC 1883 will continue to do everything possible to ensure there is a football club in Darlington. No matter how many people go back on their agreements or promises are not kept, we will keep exploring every possible avenue.”
DFC 1883 had hoped to announce yesterday that it had bought the club from administrator Harvey Madden without a company voluntary arrangement in place.
However, further discussions with lawyers and Mr Madden will now take place this morning ahead of the noon deadline.
It is understood that if agreement cannot be reached, Mr Madden will liquidate the club.
DFC 1883 may then try to buy the club’s assets after liquidation and form a new football club.
Fans who have already invested in DFC 1883 will be given their money back and then asked to reinvest their money in the new proposal.
Mr Madden confirmed yesterday that the creditors’ meeting due to take place on Friday had now been cancelled after DFC 1883 was unavailable to find sufficient money to pay off the creditors.
He said: “I have recently had discussions with representatives of DFC 1883 Ltd, who informed me that unfortunately despite their best efforts, they have been unable to raise funds to enable the payments they envisaged to both the football creditors and unsecured creditors of the club.
“Accordingly, 1883 will not be able to perform the terms of the company voluntary arrangement sent to creditors on April 18, and it is my intention to write to the creditors of the club informing them of this, cancelling the meeting convened for May 4, and withdrawing the company voluntary arrangement.”
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.
He 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.”
On Tuesday, DFC 1883 confirmed it was looking for a temporary home outside of Darlington for next season.
Last night, Mr Reynolds said he did not care that the Quakers would not play at the arena in the future.
He said: “I do not feel sad about it. I am a great believer in God, and he gives gifts to each one of us, and I thank him every night before I go to sleep that I really do not care.
“People say that the stadium is too big. When I built it, I visualised putting on an act once a month or two like Elton John or Lionel Ritchie.
They won’t come to sing to 7,000. They’ll sing to 200,000, so 25,000 isn’t too big. You tell me another business that can work when it only operates 12 hours a month, like a football club does.
“I put £37m in, and I loved it. It was good. They all used to chant ‘there’s only one George Reynolds’. I got the biggest crowds, I got them to Wembley, the club was on the up. It was good fun and money well spent really.
“Now it doesn’t make any difference to me (if the stadium’s pulled down). It doesn’t upset me one bit. In fact, it’s a feather in my hat because they’ve had three chairmen who couldn’t make a go of it like I did.”
A spokeswoman for arena owners Graham Scott and Philip Sizer said: “We have no immediate plans in place for the ground, or the surrounding land.”
Readers give their views on stadium
DARLINGTON FC 1883 said this week the club would not play at the Darlington Arena if it survives to next season.
Instead, an alternative temporary ground outside of Darlington will be sought. We asked the people of Darlington for their thoughts.
Julie Watson, 37, from Darlington, said: “They should have stayed at Feethams. If it’s possible, I hope they go back there.”
Chris Barlow, 65, from Newton Aycliffe, said: “They built such a fantastic stadium, but it it is inevitable – they have to move.
“It would be nice to use the stadium for other things. Having some live music there would be good for the area.
“If we got some big bands in and singers too, that would be great.”
Mark Cran, 52, from Darlington, said: “I think the move into the stadium was a waste of time.
“They did not have the amount of supporters needed for that size of stadium. They have not got the good players – they are a small-crowd team.”
Karlene Gawellda, 30, from Darlington, said: “The arena was too big – you could not create an atmosphere in there with the amount of fans that went.
“I think the new stadium needs to be smaller until things get better.”
Carwyn Thomas, 26, from Newcastle, originally from Carmarthenshire, Wales, said: “A very similar thing is happening at my home rugby club.
“The move at Darlington has to be done. It is not ideal, but football clubs, they are run like businesses, and there is a recession on and the club is failing.
“But you have to think, is it worth spending money on a club to keep it going when it is already failing?
“Passion for your home team sometimes just isn’t enough to keep it going.”