DARLINGTON FC’s dreams of achieving its fourth promotion in five years have been shattered after its appeal against a play-off ban was rejected.

The club does not have enough covered seating in its new Blackwell Meadows ground to participate in the play-offs this season.

It had appealed to the Football Association, but its plea was rejected following a hearing at Wembley earlier today.

Directors apologised to fans at a forum last week after saying the rules had been misinterpreted, and they had not realised that 500 covered seats were required to participate in the play-offs.

The club said in a statement: “The Football Association has officially informed us that our appeal against not being allowed to participate in the play offs has been rejected.

“This therefore means that regardless of our finishing position, we will still be playing in the Vanarama National League North next season.

“The club will make no further comment on the matter on any of its media outlets.”

The National League decreed that Quakers, who are fourth in the table, were not eligible for the play-offs because they did not have enough seats under cover at Blackwell Meadows by the deadline of March 31.

Darlington’s argument was that “significant” amounts of money were expected to be invested on covered seating, with no guarantee of a play-off spot as of March 31 in that season, or even any guarantee of promotion.

The board also said they relied on a ground grading report in December that referred to 500 seats, but no reference was made in that report to needing the seats to be covered.

Two directors, Jonathan Jowett and Richard Cook, resigned from the club last week after the fall-out from the error. They apologised to fans at an emotive fans’ forum on Friday night. Jonathan Jowett has now taken on the role of company secretary.

Manager Martin Gray told fans that he had been meeting with investors and felt the only way forward for him as a manager was to cease being a fan-owned club.

He also described the club as an “embarrassment, a laughing stock in the football world”.

The Darlington FC Supporters Group is fundraising to pay for pitch improvements – including drainage and resurfacing – at a cost of £42,000. More than £30,000 has already been raised.