A FOOTBALL club has faced criticism from its fans after the visit of a Government minister. 

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries visited Blackwell Meadows, the home of Darlington FC, on Thursday and was pictured speaking to club members and Chairman David Johnston. 

Staff at the club also presented the Conservative MP with a personalised 'Dorries 9' Darlington home shirt as a souvenir to mark the visit. 

Darlington FC was hailed as “a vital community asset”‘ thanks to its 'buddy’ scheme, which ran throughout the Covid-19 lockdown to combat loneliness amongst supporters.

However, fans reacted angrily to her visit on social media, with some even threatening to switch allegiances to local rivals. 

One fan said: "Actually thought it was April the 1st when I saw this, one week we're having a food bank collection then we're inviting someone complicit in causing the explosion in foodbank usage and getting a shirt done as if she's one of us. Just shameful."

Read more: Luke Charman has left Darlington and completed a move to Rochdale

While another said: "Someone at Darlo clearly thinks there's no such thing as bad publicity. What an embarrassment."

"This is the absolute worst,"one fan posted. 

The Northern Echo: The Conservative minister spoke to club members about its 'buddy' scheme launched during the first coronavirus lockdown The Conservative minister spoke to club members about its 'buddy' scheme launched during the first coronavirus lockdown

One fan expressed their disappointment at the visit in a week after the club sold star striker Luke Charman and lost 5-0 to bottom-of-the-league AFC Telford.

"Easily the worst week from my football club since going fan owned getting hammered by the team bottom of the league then inviting bottom feeders like this into the club for some self promotion," they said.  

Read more: County Durham MPs react after calls to avoid cost-of-living “catastrophe”

One person said Darlington FC is "losing its soul" while another said "hang your heads in shame". 

Another comment said: "Well that's it, darlo are dead to me. haway @SouthShieldsFC".

And one use simply put: "Shameless."

Ms Dorries made the visit during an extended trip across Teesside, which also included travelling to a BT Openreach Training Centre and arts and culture venue Redcar Palace and Yarm. 

She said:“The Quakers are the embodiment of true community spirit and a stark reminder that, through all the ups and downs, football is nothing without the fans. 

“I’ve seen first hand today how important it is to have a strong relationship between the owners and the fans and how central supporters are to a team’s identity. 

“As we prepare our response to the fan led review, we must harness the spirit of clubs like Darlington and ensure financial sustainability and good governance are in place so we can protect these vital community assets.”

Darlington FC said in a statement: "The visit by the Secretary of State for DCMS was to talk about various matters; 

· the Tracey Crouch report, to which the Darlington FC chief operating officer David Johnston contributed, especially regarding the need for more governance and the urgent need for a regulator in the game

·  the important need for sustainability and stricter fit and proper directors' tests

· the issues that the club had with the National League last year regarding the issue of grants/loans and the termination of the season

· the background to the club being fan-owned, particularly the three administrations and the fans rescuing the club financially ten years ago this month

· details of the £1.6m that the fans have raised for their club with various fund raising initiatives in the last ten years

· the work that the club is doing to be at the heart of the community -- for example the Buddy scheme, the women's football team, the youth section and academy."

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