8:00am Monday 10th March 2014
By Tim Wellock
Darlington Football Club's move to the town's rugby club will face its final, and biggest, hurdle on March 24.
That is the rearranged date for the extraordinary general meeting at Blackwell Meadows, at which the rugby club's members will vote on the proposed groundshare.
Chairman Mike Wilkinson is aware of opposition to the move and said: "It would be wrong to make any assumptions about the outcome.
"Our general committee agreed to pursue it and we are now in a position to put it to the membership, as the club's constitution requires. We have around 150 voting members."
The meeting has been postponed once because all the required information from the bodies involved had not been made available.
Among those who are not in favour is former secretary John Ingham, a club stalwart for more than 50 years, although he admitted: "If we don't vote it through we'll be the hated all over town and be accused of killing the football club.
"Lots of people are saying if they had wanted to join a football club they would have done. We would have preferred this to be put to the membership before any talks with the football club took place."
Ingham fears that rugby will be pushed into the background on pitches away from the clubhouse as he doesn't believe the main pitch will withstand rugby one week and football the next.
Wilkinson said: "That's one of the issues to be addressed. We don't yet know whether we can bring any pressure to bear so that rugby and football fixtures alternate.
"We have ten pitches here for rugby and football and the vision since I became chairman has been to make this a sporting hub.
"We think the groundshare would enhance that and would bring both clubs some financial stability.
"With the membership's agreement and goodwill we would be in a position to move things forward quickly. The football club need to inform the FA where they intend to play next season.
"This is our 150th anniversary year and we want to go into the next 150 years with a set-up which will benefit rugby and the sporting community in Darlington, including those who have yet to play. The move would bring stability and employment.
"There will be those who have played for and supported the club all their lives who hold it dear to their hearts and don't see why there's a need to share what they love.
"But I'm hoping they can see the attraction of what is being proposed when we outline it at the meeting."
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