DARLINGTON have requested formal permission to temporarily move back to The Darlington Arena for the start of the new National League North season.

Quakers officials have notified the National League authorities of their intention to leave Blackwell Meadows in order to increase the number of supporters who can attend matches once the Government’s coronavirus restrictions are eased.

The club have calculated that, under the current proposals for readmitting spectators to sporting events, the maximum capacity permitted at Blackwell Meadows would be around 550 fans, which is 17 per cent of the ground’s capacity.

Last season, Darlington’s average gate for their home games was 1,485, with 650 season-ticket holders being accommodated at each game.

The likely permitted attendance at the Darlington Arena is still to be confirmed, but given that the stadium has a capacity of 25,000, it will much be higher than the figure at Blackwell Meadows.

The Arena is owned by Darlington Mowden Park rugby club, which is understood to have agreed to the football club’s proposed groundshare.

“We want to cater for everybody who wants to see Darlington FC play at home,” said Quakers chief executive David Johnston. “Given the current regulations, it will be impossible for 1,500 people to safely enter Blackwell Meadows, indeed we would expect higher crowds than 1,500 given that we haven’t played since March.

“We would much prefer that everyone who wants to see us play, can do so in a safe and controlled manner, rather than the very big headache of having to tell nearly a thousand people that they can’t come to a game.

“We would also be able to safely allow away fans into the Arena, whereas they wouldn’t be allowed to go to Blackwell Meadows.”

While the logistical considerations behind a return to the Arena make sense, the relocation, which is being described by the club as “temporary” will not be without controversy.

Darlington left their former home at Feethams to move into the Arena, which was the brainchild of former chairman George Reynolds, in 2003. Quakers spent nine years playing at the stadium, but its running costs became a millstone around the club’s neck and contributed to the financial problems that resulted in demotion to the Northern League.

Many supporters felt the stadium was soulless, and have preferred to attend Blackwell Meadows or Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park, which was Darlington’s base as they began their rise through the non-league ranks.