AN entrepreneur who founded an international engineering firm has pledged to help secure the future of the rugby club which owns one of the North-East’s largest stadiums.

Two years after becoming a board member of Darlington Mowden Rugby Football Club, members “resoundingly” voted in favour of Ged Quinn taking ownership of the National League club which is based at the 25,000-capacity Northern Echo Arena.

After the meeting, Mr Quinn said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed assisting Mowden Park and its management team over recent years and the passion of its members has shone through. I’m pleased to be able to help secure the club’s future and I’m determined to augment its long history as a sports club for the benefit of sport and the community of Darlington.”

The takeover is the latest chapter in the turbulent short history of the stadium, which was opened by businessman George Reynolds in 2003, months before putting Darlington Football Club into administration.

The decision enabling Mr Quinn to steer the club was taken after an outline of the club’s plans was presented to members at an extraordinary general meeting.

Senior club officials said the meeting would have been held even if Darlington Borough Council had not pulled out of a multi-million pound scheme to develop a sports village beside the stadium last month amid concerns over its viability.

Club insiders said Mr Quinn has been viewed as an ideal figure to guide the club through numerous challenges related to its outgoings and income, including the financial concerns that all rugby clubs are facing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They said he had loaned the club up to £2m following Darlington Borough Council calling in the funds it had lent the Neasham Road club.

They said Mr Quinn’s elevation to owner had been favoured by members as he brought with him a wealth of business experience across a number of sectors as the founder and chairman of the Vulcan Engineering Group that operates across three continents, as well being an owner and investor in a portfolio of businesses.

Alongside its base in Sheffield, the firm has an established 17,000sq m “super factory” in China and a facility in the US.

However, while the club has stated it is in a “financially secure position for the long-term”, members said their concerns over its sustainability remained.

One member, who declined to be named, said: “I think this is an essential move for the club’s short to medium term future. Ged Quinn is obviously quite a smart businessman, but he has said he will not fund it forever.”

Following the meeting, which was open only to the club’s members, the club said it would lay out its future plans, which are believed to include a scaled-down more rugby-focused alternative to the original multi-sports village scheme, which had been due to feature an improved arena, artificial pitches, a centre of excellence for sports development, a hotel, petrol station and food outlets.

The club has stated that a sports village remains deliverable and has confirmed its continued commitment to create “a community-orientated site”.

The announcement comes a day after it emerged Darlington Football Club had asked its league for permission to return temporarily to their former home at the Northern Echo Arena to allow their fans and travelling supporters to attend in greater numbers.

It is understood the Quakers’ move is completely unrelated to proposals for the rugby club.

Club chairman Mick Birch said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the outcome of the meeting. This new structure and direction will strengthen the club and ensure we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic able to progress our plans for the future of Darlington Mowden Park and sport in the town.”

Leader of Darlington Borough Council, Councillor Heather Scott said the authority had already held discussions with Mr Quinn and welcomed his takeover.

She said: “This is important for Darlington – anything that can put Darlington on the map and support sport is. This is really what they have needed and we are hoping we can work together for its future.”