IT has a history stretching back 128 years, but in a matter of days, Darlington FC could be just that – history.
Only a few months after the Quakers lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley in front of 10,000 fans, the club faces an uncertain future after being put in administration for the third time in nine years.
Fans, players and staff are now praying for a miracle in the form of a new owner after those handling its affairs warned that unless a buyer was found soon, it would cease trading.
Chairman Raj Singh said he had been working for the past two years to try to reduce costs. However, money is still owed to staff and former manager Mark Cooper, while the club’s running costs need subsidising. It is believed any potential owner would need to find between £300,000 and £500,000 to keep the club operating.
Mr Singh said he tried everything possible and thanked those fans who had supported him.
He said: “I would like to think the majority of our supporters are level-headed and understand my position, and know how hard I have worked to try to bring success to the club.
“To those who think I have let them down somehow or have been cheated by me, I hope one day they will see it from my point of view, and try to remember that wonderful day we had at Wembley last May.
“Some of the unfair flak and criticism I have had over the last four weeks just made me more determined to call it a day sooner rather than later.”
In a statement yesterday, administrator Harvey Madden, of Rowlands accountants, based in Yarm, near Stockton, said: “I am currently exploring all options to try and find a way to enable the football club to remain in existence, but the position of the club is such that without any financial support from outside the club or anyone willing to acquire the club I will, unfortunately, have little alternative but to cease to trade in a very short time.
“Every day is critical if the club is to survive.”
Earlier this month, Mr Singh met local businessmen who were exploring ways to take over the club and run it for the benefit of the community.
However, the Darlington Football Club Rescue Group (DFCRG) said it was not in a position to take over immediately.
Last night, group spokesman Mark Meynell said: “We are not going to let it go without exploring every avenue, but we are not in a position to come in and clear the debt. That was never our strategy.”
Because it has gone into administration, the club – 13th in the Blue Square Bet Premier League – will receive a ten-point deduction, dropping it to just above the relegation zone. A transfer embargo will continue until it is out of administration.
Caretaker manager Craig Liddle described the announcement as tremendously disappointing.
He said: “I would like to think we can keep the club going. It has been a big part of my life and I would like to think we can continue that, but it is out of my hands.”
The Northern Echo Arena is owned by businessmen Philip Scott and Graham Sizer.
The stadium’s owners said they were still keen to see a successful football club, and said: “As owners of the arena, we will talk with any new party about a lease that can offer some continuity.
“A new arrangement will need to be made with any new owner.
We will want to talk about an interim lease which still offers a rent level appropriate for the size and scale of the operation.”
A council spokeswoman said the authority wanted “a successful, thriving football club” and had “always worked hard, wherever possible, to support the club”.
She said: “We will work with the administrators to continue to support the business in whatever way we can.”
Andy Smith, from Darlington Supporters Club, said he was not ready to give up hope, adding: “This is a devastating blow to Darlington fans. We are used to not having a great deal of success, but after winning the FA Trophy, we thought that was a turning point.”
Mr Madden can be contacted on 01642-790790.