Darlington FC 1883 (DFC 1883) has agreed a groundshare deal with Bishop Auckland FC after concerns emerged about the safety of Shildon’s Dean Street ground, which the club had agreed to use.
Fans’ company DFC 1883 made the announcement tonight, at the same time confirming that it would appeal against its demotion to the Northern League.
Denis Pinnegar, chairman of DFC 1883, said he had spoken to the chairman of Shildon AFC to advise that Darlington FC would not be groundsharing with the club next season.
He added: “This is in no way meant to be disrespectful to Shildon – they are a lovely club and nice people, but we have significant concerns about safety, bearing in mind we will be bringing several hundred fans to the ground.”
Mr Pinnegar said Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park had recently received provisional approval to become a Category C ground, which meant it would be suitable to hold Evo-Stik Premier games.
Mr Pinnegar added: “This decision was not taken because of our appeal to the FA regarding our placement in the Northern League, but it will potentially enhance our appeal.”
Terry Jackson, chairman of Bishop Auckland FC, welcomed the partnership with the Quakers.
He said: “It’s fantastic news – it will provide us with important extra income and Darlington with a place to play next season.”
DFC 1883 said it would ask the Football Association (FA) to reconsider its decision to treat the club as a new entity, which must be placed no higher than step five of the football pyramid.
The club has got until a week on Friday to submit the appeal, but DFC 1883 hopes it can be submitted by the end of the week.
Craig McKenna, DFC 1883 project manager, said: “Unfortunately, the details of the appeal can’t be shared until after the appeal has been heard, but we’ve got a three-point appeal.
“Until the appeal is heard and upheld, we’ve got to continue on the basis that we will be playing Northern League football next year.”
In further news, hopes emerged today that the club would be able to keep its name next season.
The FA said on Monday that it was “highly likely” the club would have to change its name.
However, Mr McKenna today announced the club could keep its name, adding: “The FA were very, very positive and supportive and it’s a misconception that they have it in for Darlington FC.”
The Northern Echo was unable to obtain official confirmation of this development tonight, with both the FA and Durham FA saying no decision had been made.
Meanwhile, Gareth Howe, Shildon FC club secretary, was left frustrated by Darlington’s claim that the move was due to safety concerns.
He said: “We wish them all the best and we hope things work out for them. However, I resent the way they’re using health and safety as an issue when our ground meets health and safety standards for the Northern League.
"It suggests there’s something wrong with our ground, but our ground meets Northern League specification.
"We are inspected by the FA every year and if there was an issue it would’ve been addressed.”