SIGNIFICANT progress on an investment plan that would secure the long-term future of Darlington Football Club and still give fans a stake in their club has been made, The Northern Echo understands.

As fans and townspeople are urged to show their support by buying a ticket for Saturday’s game against York, a new potential investor has emerged as the frontrunner to purchase the club.

It is understood the investor’s proposal includes an opportunity for fans to buy a percentage of the club.

Negotiations will continue today with an announcement anticipated before the club’s temporary funds run out at the end of the month.

As well as the new investor, a group of Yorkshirebased businessmen is hoping to build homes and a leisure complex, including an indoor snow sports centre, on the Neasham Road site. The group remains in talks with administrator Harvey Madden.

A £500,000 proposal, led by Darlington MP Jenny Chapman, to launch a community interest company to run the club is also being discussed.

If the proposals are accepted by Mr Madden, it is likely that some, or all, of the parties would work with members of Darlington Football Club Rescue Group to secure the future of the 129-year-old club.

Mrs Chapman yesterday continued to hold talks with Darlington businesses keen to buy into the community interest company. Although unable to discuss the details of the latest negotiations, she said: “I want to thank the fans for their continued generosity – they have been absolutely amazing and are doing Darlington proud.

“Now let’s see if we can get even more people through the gates this Saturday than we did against Fleetwood.”

The North East Chamber of Commerce has circulated donation details to its members and urged them to help.

The club was given until the end of the month to find a buyer after the rescue group came up with £50,000, including £10,000 each from the supporters’ trust and supporters’ club, at the 11th hour last week.

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How to donate to the club

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Cheques made payable to DFCRG sent to Save Darlo, c/o The Northern Echo, Priestgate, Darlington DL1 1NF. The Echo office is also receiving hand-delivered donations.

Bucket Collections
Darlington FC Supporters Club is also raising money, with bucket collections at the ground. Cheques made payable to the club can be sent to 6 Somerset Grove,Darlington, DL1 2LL.

Although more money has been raised by fans since then – including more than £8,000 at Saturday’s game against Fleetwood Town – it is not known if Mr Madden will give the club more time beyond the deadline if a buyer cannot be found.

Quakers legend returns for club's fundraiser

FORMER footballer Kevan Smith, who played a part in three of Darlington’s promotions, is taking part in an event on Saturday to help raise funds to keep the club from closing.

The footballer, who played more than 400 games for the club in two separate periods, will be guest speaker at a race night, from 7.30pm, at Cleveland Social Club, Neasham Road, Darlington.

The event, which will also include a disco, has been coordinated by Kevin Wray on behalf of his father-in-law, Colin Bellwood, who has supported the club for 61 years.

Mr Bellwood began attending matches when he was ten and said he would be devastated if the club closed.

Mr Wray, who played football regularly since he was young, has had to give up recently because of injury and said he wanted to put something back into the game.

His wife, Alison, who has also been contributing by rallying local businesses for raffle donations, said she cannot believe how generous people are being.

The most recent donation was from Halfords, which contributed £300-worth of prizes for the event.

With less than a week left for Darlington FC to raise £500,000, the family are urging people to show their support.

Tickets are £5 at the door.

At the hub of things

FANS hoping to save Darlington Football Club have launched a town centre base, so it can gather support.

Darlington Football Club Rescue Group has set up a stand in the Dolphin Centre where fans can make donations and submit offers of help.

There is also a plan for volunteers to sell memorabilia.

Kath MacColl, spokeswoman for the rescue group, said: “It is hoped this will become a focal point for fans to show their support, sign pledges and make donations.

“It’s an effort to bring the fight for the club into the town centre.

“We asked the council if we could have somewhere and it is a measure of their support that they were able to find this space.”

Businesses urged to 'dress down'

BUSINESSES are being urged to join schools in dressing down for Darlington Football Club.

The Northern Echo: FAN CLUB: From left, Sammy Shaya, 15, Thomas Crowther, ten, Luke Lynas, three, Jonathan Pears, ten, and Stephen McCormick, 16Fan club: From left, Sammy Shaya, 15, Thomas Crowther, ten, Luke Lynas, three, Jonathan Pears, ten, and Stephen McCormick, 16

Children across the town will take part in mufti days this week to raise money for the club.

Now company bosses are being encouraged to follow their lead and let staff wear casual clothes in return for a donation of £2.

Darlington Building Society has signed up and will hold a dress down day next Friday.

Darlington College staff and students have also pledged to get involved.

Among the schools holding a non-uniform day will be Polam Hall. Students will be wearing black and white tomorrow.

Angela Foster, junior school headteacher, said: “The pupils believe it is important for Darlington to have its own football club and wanted to do something constructive to help.”

'Blown away by support'

DARLINGTON Football Club has received “overwhelming support” from football fans, fundraisers for the club say.

More than £8,000 was collected in buckets at The Northern Echo Arena on Saturday when the club played Fleetwood Town.

A further £700 was raised by collectors in the Cornmill Centre last week.

Darlington Football Club Supporters’ Club is now preparing for another big push during Saturday’s home game against York.

Andy Smith, from the supporters’ club, said: “The generosity of people who attended on Saturday was overwhelming.

It wasn’t just Darlington fans, but supporters from other clubs who came along and emptied their pockets.

“We’ve got a big game against York on Saturday and we will be collecting again.

“Already the York fans have been in touch to show their support and I’m sure their fans will contribute to our cause as well.”

Get tickets in good time

FANS are being urged to buy their tickets in advance for the York match, which may yet be the last in the Quakers’ 129-year history.

“Last Saturday, so many people were coming in at halfpast two or a quarter-to-three without tickets that we had thousands queueing,” said general manager Jason Lees.

Getting the crowd of more than 5,600 into the stadium meant kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes.

“We will only be able to put the kick-off back so many times before the footballing authorities fine us for not having planned the match properly.

It is really important that people turn up early.”

Fleetwood only brought a handful of supporters last weekend, but some indications suggest York could bring 2,500.

Tickets are available only from The Northern Echo Arena.

Questions over friendly match

THE Quakers need to secure their short-term future before they can respond to Hartlepool’s offer of a fundraising friendly next month.

The rescue group’s £50,000, which is keeping the Quakers afloat, runs out after Saturday’s game against York.

“It is a fantastic gesture from our arch rivals, we couldn’t ask for more,” said general manager Jason Lees, “but at the moment we are concentrating on the York game and hoping that we can get a backer in to take us forward.”

Five-star treat for t'other half

DARLINGTON’S footballers will be able to treat their wives and partners to a free overnight stay and pampering session in one of the world’s most luxurious hotels.

Nick Holmes, managing director of the five-star Rockliffe Hall, Hurworth, presented Quakers manager Craig Liddle with vouchers entitling team members to stay at the hotel, use the golf course and the spa.

Mr Holmes said: “We wanted to recognise what the players and their partners have been through.”

Mr Liddle, who collected the vouchers as the team set off for last night’s match, said: “It is a fantastic gesture.

“We’ve all been through a lot, and our partners and wives tend to get forgotten.”

Can you help?

THERE are four full-time staff running the club, and everyone else helping is a volunteer.

“We could really do with another two or three pairs of hands to help the groundsman, who is not getting paid,” said manager Jason Lees.

To help out, call 01325-387000.