BOSSES at Darlington Football Club last night said they had been forced to close a local sports centre because it was no longer financially viable.

The Quaker Sports Centre, near the club's old Feethams home, has been popular with five-a-side football players for many years.

But people turning up to play at the centre, in Polam Lane, in the last two days have found a notice informing them it had been shut down.

It is thought the football club, which now has a £20m stadium in Neasham Road, had been paying up to £70,000 a year to maintain the centre.

It had fallen into disrepair in recent years, with vandalism and break-ins causing problems.

Last night, a club spokesman explained the reasons behind the decision to close the facility, saying it had been run down by previous regimes.

He said: "This is not a facility used by Darlington Football Club.

"However, it has been the subject of burglaries and attacks by vandals, and it is not viable for the club to pay the costs associated with keeping the Quaker Centre open."

He said resources were now being directed towards the club's "core football activity" and it was hoped that new community sports facilities could be created elsewhere in the town in the future.

But the closure has come as a blow to regular users of the centre, some of whom have contacted The Northern Echo to express their anger.

One local man, who asked not to be named, said: "It is a shame that it has been left to go to rack and ruin over the years.

"It was a very popular centre with local players."

Darlington's old Feethams stadium hosted its last game in May 2003, before the club's move to the Williamson Motors Stadium.

Its future has been the subject of much speculation, but what the exact future of the venue has yet to be decided.