DARLINGTON Football Club will fold next month unless a bumper crowd turns up for their next home league game.
That is the stark warning from administrators, who are asking the people of the town to show their support and commitment to the club by turning up in numbers for the match against Rochdale on January 31.
"Let no one be in any doubt that we are minded to close after the next home game," said joint administrator David Elliott last night.
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Northampton were due to be at the Reynolds Arena next Saturday. But their dream FA Cup tie against Manchester United has forced the postponement of the Division Three fixture.
With the prospect of gate receipts from only one home game over the next four weeks, administrators fear they will be unable to meet the £100,000 wages bill for February and other essential running costs.
Mr Elliott and David Field, partners in insolvency practitioners Wilson Field, were appointed as joint administrators on December 23. They were called in after former chairman George Reynolds placed the club in administration to prevent it being wound up by the Inland Revenue, which has an outstanding tax bill of about £250,000.
The administrators are adamant that the Rochdale game is make-or-break for the club. If there are sufficient gate receipts on January 31, then the club will be able to survive February. Depending on continued good attendances, receipts from the re-arranged Northampton game on February 17 and other home fixtures may be enough for administrators to see the club through to the end of the season.
In a bid to kick off the fund-raising, some of the region's best-known football stars are to play in a special match next weekend.
Paul Gascoigne, Kenny Dalglish, Bryan Robson and Peter Beardsley are among the all-star team which will take on the current team in a game which manager David Hodgson hopes will achieve record gates at the Reynolds Arena a week tomorrow.
For the first time last night, Mr Elliott and Mr Field revealed the depth of the financial crisis facing the club.
There is £4m outstanding on mortgage loans secured on the new stadium, and other creditors are owed £1.5m. In addition Mr Reynolds claims he is owed in the region of £15m for money he has personally loaned to the club.
Further details of the debts will be given at a creditors' meeting, due to be held at the Reynolds Arena on Thursday.
Yesterday, the administrators released sales packs for potential groups or individuals interested in investing in the club or buying it. Subject to the club still being in business, a deadline of February 13 has been set for firm bids to be handed in.
Despite the revenue crisis, the administrators remain hopeful that the 120-year-old club will survive.
The most likely rescue option remains a rescheduling of the debts, with creditors agreeing to a reduction in what is paid to them, and with investors creating a new company to run the club.
After a meeting with administrators on Monday, Mr Reynolds resigned as chairman and director of the club. His departure has been registered at Companies House. He has been asked to stay away from the Reynolds Arena.
However, under the regulations, it is possible for him to compete with other potential bidders to return to the helm if he is able to raise the cash to reach an agreement with creditors and take the club out of administration.
But all future options hinge on the size of the crowd in two weeks' time.