ONE of the country's greatest ever amateur football clubs has started the year facing a cash crisis.

Officials at ten times FA Amateur Cup winners Bishop Auckland say they will struggle to survive now that the plug has been pulled on their major source of income.

For over 100 years the club has co-existed with the town's cricket club, sharing the historic Kingsway ground, to the benefit of both outfits.

The main source of cash for the football club has been from its social club, on land that both clubs own.

But now the Bishops have quit Kingsway, to ground share with nearby Shildon until their out-of-town development is built in Tindale Crescent, the cricket club wants a proportion of the rental income. Football club chairman Terry Jackson said the news that the cricket club wants to share the social club cash is a devastating blow.

He said: "The social club rental has given us around £21,000 a year - which is our biggest sponsorship by a long way.

"At best we raise £5,000 a year on the turnstiles, which shows how important this money is. We rely on that money to keep going. All small clubs need every penny they can get.

"We have received a significant amount of rental money from the social club for a number of years and felt that the arrangement could continue in the same way. Both parties spoke in November and I felt we agreed about that but in December the cricket club spoke with the social club about sharing rent.

"This is dreadful news for the football club at any time but to happen in the middle of the season is the worst possible timing."

Keith Hopper, on behalf of the cricket club trustees, said: "We have the best interests of Bishop Auckland Football Club at heart and have had since day one of the negotiations.

"We have been trying to get meetings with them over the past year but they have ignored our overtures.

"But we are willing to sit down and talk with the football club at any time."