THE front-runner bidding to save Darlington Football Club was last night pressing on with his plans as thousands of people were preparing to watch what could be the Quakers’ last game today.

Sheffield venture capitalist Paul Wildes was continuing negotiations with former club chairman Raj Singh, who has put £1.8m into the club.

For Mr Wildes’ plan to work, he needs Mr Singh to write off that debt.

He has offered Mr Singh a guarantee that the stadium site would not be developed for commercial activities for at least five years.

“I am still very hopeful of taking the club out of administration – I would not be coming to the game if I wasn’t,”

said Mr Wildes, who is proposing to invest £300,000 with the fans putting in £200,000 and taking a 40 per cent stake.

He also said that he would be prepared to enter into discussions with another sports club, like Newcastle Falcons, to groundshare if that would make the stadium more viable.

However, he stressed that he was just responding to local rumours that the rugby club might itself be preparing a bid.

The third interested party, a Yorkshire consortium wanting to build eco-homes and a indoor snow centre alongside the stadium, met Darlington council yesterday. It is understood the meeting “went well”.

The £50,000 put in by the Darlington FC Rescue Group ten days ago to allow all parties time to negotiate will run out on Monday, although the Echo understands there are contingencies to extend that should a deal look likely.

This makes it unlikely that today’s match, against York City, will be the last in the club’s 128-year history.

A large crowd is expected, possibly topping 7,000, and fans are urged to turn up early.

Council leader Bill Dixon repeated yesterday that the covenant restricting development on The Northern Echo Darlington Arena must remain in place.

The convenant states that the land can only be used for football purposes and if the site is sold for anything else, 75 per cent of any increase in the value of the land would go to the council.

Councillor Dixon said: “The covenant was put there to mainly protect the interests of the people of Darlington who sold the land cheaper than its market value.

“I would argue that on two previous occasions the covenant has actually saved the football club.

“Certainly three years ago there would have been a huge temptation to asset strip – it would be a hypermarket by now.”