THE first formal offer to take over cash-strapped Darlington Football Club was under consideration last night, but rival bidders are seeking more time to draw up rescue packages.

Businessman Ted Forster faxed an offer to the Quakers' administrators yesterday morning, despite the true scale of the club's debts still remaining a mystery.

The consortium of local businessmen linked to a buyout deal also confirmed that it would be making a definite bid, but wanted extra time to put it together.

Today is the provisional deadline for bids to be made, but administrators from Wilson Field, of Sheffield, said they would listen to later offers from other interested parties.

The Northern Echo is aware of another serious potential bidder, but has agreed not to name the party at this stage.

Mr Forster fired the first shot in the battle to gain control of the Quakers yesterday, saying of his bid: "Let's just say I think it's the front-running one."

The 53-year-old is known to be a devoted Darlington fan.

The Northern Echo understands the bid is to pay off creditors at 80p in the pound and involves hiring the stadium from George Reynolds.

Administrator David Field said: "It does require further information from both sides. We haven't got any proof of funding to show that he can actually fulfil the offer he has made.

"It is normal for all our work to be done before bids are made, but I can understand why it's been done."

The consortium is waiting for the extra details to be provided, particularly regarding a claim by former chairman Mr Reynolds that he is the largest unsecured creditor, owed £19.6m.

Administrators hope to verify the validity of the claim by the end of next week.

Mark Meynell is one of four businessmen who have teamed up with Darlington Supporters' Trust to form the consortium.

He said a holding letter would be sent to administrators seeking more time before a bid is tabled.

"We're intending to make a bid, but don't intend to make it sooner than we have to," he said.

"We have one or two details still to sort out, which would affect the size of the bid.

"We're quite comfortable with our position, in terms of our business plan and our ability to make it a success if it does happen.

"Our funding arrangements are in hand and I believe we would do a good job."

Despite scepticism from some fans, Mr Forster, who lives on the Greek island of Rhodes, told The Northern Echo last night that he had high hopes of agreeing a deal.

"I'm a Darlington supporter and I'm doing what I can to make damned sure the club survives," he said.

Referring to Mr Reynolds' pledge when he took over in 1999, that the Quakers would be in the Premiership in five years, Mr Forster said he would not make such promises.

"I'm not going to do what George did because I thought his opening statement was ludicrous," he said.

Irish carpet company boss Des Kelly has also held talks with the club's administrators, but has sparked controversy by announcing that he would install former Carlisle United boss Roddy Collins as manager.

The administrators are hoping to receive further bids by the end of today, but admit that later proposals would have to be considered.

Creditors have agreed a deadline of Thursday, April 22 for the club to come out of administration, or face liquidation.