ONE of the country's best-known amateur football clubs is once again facing an uncertain future.

Officials at ten-times FA Amateur Cup winners Bishop Auckland FC say they will struggle to survive if they lose their major source of income.

For more than 100 years, the football club has co-existed with Bishop Auckland Cricket Club, sharing the historic Kingsway sports ground in County Durham, to the benefit of both clubs.

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

However, now that the Bishops have quit Kingsway to share a ground with nearby Shildon FC until their out-of-town stadium is built in Tindale Crescent, the cricket club says it wants a proportion of the rent the football club receives from the social club.

Football club chairman Terry Jackson said the move could prove a devastating blow for the Unibond League first division side.

He said: "The social club rent has given us about £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 the rent money to keep going - and, let's face it, all small clubs need every penny they can get their hands on.

"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 to the social club about sharing rent.

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

Six years ago, the Bishops were days away from bankruptcy when they were sued by a player who had suffered a broken leg during a match.

They were saved thanks to a £30,000 campaign led by The Northern Echo, which brought Britain's biggest club, Manchester United, to Kingsway for a money-spinning friendly fixture.

Officials fear this latest crisis could be just as bad.

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."