FOOTBALL fans, who began raising money to save their football club more than six years ago, have passed the £1m milestone.

Fans of the now supporter-run Darlington Football Club have been raising money ever since January 2012 when they saved the club from going under.

Around £50,000 was hastily raised when the club went into administration, and supporters have continued to provide financial support ever since, allowing the Quakers to return to play their matches in Darlington, and to build a new stand at Blackwell Meadows following last season’s covered seats controversy.

Club bosses described the backing of their fans as “magnificent “, and said the opening of the new covered stand before last weekend’s National League North game against Curzon Ashton saw them reach the significant milestone.

John Tempest, director of Darlington Football Club, said: “Ever since that day six years ago when the club almost died, the financial backing of our fans has been magnificent.

“They have played a most crucial part in helping the club to where it is today.”

A breakdown of the money raised by the fans shows that almost £200,000 was raised in the first six months of the club being supporter owned.

The fans also contributed to the launch and continued success of the season ticket initiative known as the 500 club, new dugouts and goal posts, the playing budget, and fundraising schemes such a sponsoring a seat and the ongoing fans lottery.

Chris Stockdale, chair of the Darlington Football Club Supporters Group, said: “Passing the £1m figure is a real milestone.

“To raise this amount of money illustrates just how much our core supporters have bought into the concept of fan ownership after years of disastrous private ownership.

“We should all be very proud of our progress over the past six years.

“The challenge going forward will be to deepen and broaden our support as we seek to continue to grow our football club.”

The new stand at Blackwell Meadows, which cost around £150,000 and was completely financed by Quakers’ fans, took the total capacity of the stand to almost 600.

Speaking about the new stand last week, Mr Tempest said: “It is starting to look a lot more like a football ground.

“There is a fair bit of work still to do, but there will definitely be more atmosphere in the ground.”

Darlington FC returned to play their homes fixtures in the town on Boxing Day 2016 after a four-and-a-half year absence.