THE football club formerly known as Darlington FC last night asked fans to help choose a new name after an unprecedented punishment by the Football Association.
Club officials had hoped a plea for leniency would see the Quakers allowed to keep their name as well as playing in the Evo-Stik League and national FA competitions next season.
However, following a crunch meeting at Wembley Stadium, they came away disappointed on all counts.
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The punishment, which is one of the harshest ever handed down by football’s governing body, leaves Darlington at rock bottom – a club with no name, no permanent home, no entry into national cup competitions and no choice but to play in the Northern League next season.
Members of Darlington FC 1883 (DFC 1883), the community company formed to save the club from liquidation, said they were “gobsmacked” by the decision, but last night refused to be downhearted.
Although the FA ruling means the club can no longer be known as Darlington Football Club – a name it has used since its foundation in 1883 – it immediately launched a fightback last night, asking fans to help choose a new name.
Seven options have been proposed – Darlington FC 1883, 1883 Darlington FC, Darlington Community Football Club (CFC), CFC Darlington, Darlington Athletic Football Club (AFC), AFC Darlington and Locomotive Darlington.
In an online poll launched yesterday by The Northern Echo, Darlington AFC was the fans’ favourite, with 33 per cent of the votes cast, followed by Locomotive Darlington, with 24 per cent.
Voting will continue today and over the weekend. Fans can also make their choice by completing a coupon printed in The Northern Echo today, and sending it to The Echo’s head office, in Darlington.
The results of The Northern Echo’s poll will be sent to the club, which has promised to consider the fans’ views before deciding on a name.
Board members from DFC 1883, which owns the club, travelled to Wembley yesterday to appeal against the FA’s decision to treat the Quakers as a new entity, separate from the club which played in the Blue Square Premier League last season.
However, the appeal was rejected on all counts.
The ruling means the club will play in the Northern League next season and be prevented from taking part in national FA competitions.
But it is the FA’s insistence that the club changes its 129- year-old name which is likely to anger fans the most.
DFC 1883 board members last night said they were “bitterly disappointed at the decision”, but vowed to press on with the community club model.
Board member Laura Drew said: “We feel we had a strong case and, to be honest, I am gobsmacked that the appeal was unsuccessful.”
Denis Pinnegar, DFC 1883 chairman, added: “There has been a lot of uncertainty around this club in recent times and the fans deserve better.
“It’s our job now to work with the fans, get the fans to back the club and get the club back playing in Darlington and at the highest level we can, as soon as we can.”
However, while the board said it would accept the ruling, there was also anger at how the club had found itself in this position.
Craig McKenna, DFC 1883 project director, claimed the judgement had occurred because fans had been let down by former chairman Raj Singh, who was unable to back a company voluntary arrangement acceptable to the FA and did not transfer the club’s FA membership to the new owners.
Mr McKenna added: “It is the fans that I feel for – they deserve better than this and they have been let down.
“It is the fans’ club now and, if that is the only positive thing to come out of this, then it is a positive thing well worth having.”
Mr Singh said: “Once they have put the amount of money into the football club as I have, then they can criticise – end of.”
The FA was unavailable for comment.