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Darlington FC to ground share with Shildon next season
DARLINGTON FC will play its home games ten miles away in Shildon next season, the fans’ group that runs the club confirmed yesterday.
The announcement of a one-year deal to share Shildon’s 2,500-capacity Dean Street ground came a year to the day after the Quakers’ FA Trophy final victory at Wembley.
Amid the jubilant aftermath of Chris Senior’s injury time goal to beat Mansfield, few could have predicted that, only a year later, Darlington FC would be leaving the town, albeit temporarily, for the first time.
The ground-share deal was reached following talks between Darlington FC 1883 (DFC 1883), which last week completed a deal to buy the club, and representatives from the Northern League outfit.
A meeting with the Football Association is to be held on May 15, at which Quakers hope to be given a football playing licence for the 2012-13 season.
That meeting will decide which division the club will start in next season.
Both DFC 1883 and Shildon say they are confident the ground meets the required standard for the Evostik Northern Premier League, the division Darlington could find itself playing in when the season starts in August.
Craig McKenna, DFC 1883 board member and project manager, said securing a temporary ground share was crucial in efforts to earn a licence.
Shildon, who finished tenth in Northern League Division One this season, will receive £25,000 in rent from DFC 1883, while Quakers will keep gate receipts from their home games.
Mr McKenna said: “This is a good deal for both sides and we are looking forward to a great working relationship with Shildon.
“The focus is very much on coming back to Darlington next year. I do not think there would be a problem if we needed a second year [at Shildon], but this is not a one year rolling lease.”
Mr McKenna said the financial elements of such deals are normally kept confidential, but a decision to publicise the rents owed to Shildon had been taken in the spirit of DFC 1883’s status as a community-run operation.
Shildon will also receive a share of the bar takings from Quakers’ games.
Secretary Gareth Howe said: “We are pleased to help and would like to think we can help Darlington back to its feet.
“We are sorry it has come to this, but if it all works out like we hope it will, we will be proud to have helped them on their way.”
Shildon supporters have experience of sharing their ground, having previously welcomed Bishop Auckland as tenants.
Mr Howe said a proportion of the £25,000 rent the club will receive from DFC 1883 will go towards the costs of hosting additional events – Quakers matches – at the ground.
However, there will be a surplus, he said, which could be spent on improving the facilities at Shildon in the future.
Gary Huntington, a former Shildon FC director and Durham County Council member for the area, welcomed the announcement as “excellent news”.
He said: “The ground has been improved since Bishop Auckland played there a couple of seasons ago.
“It is a good football field with good facilities and I personally welcome Darlington.”
* DFC 1883 will host a fans’ forum at Blackwell Grange Hotel, on Friday, at 7pm.