The Conference side were only members of the Football League a few years ago following relegation from League Two in the 2009-2010 Season.
To begin to describe the troubles ‘The Quakers’ have had over the last 10 years would be a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. From a personal point of view, as a QPR fan, I often mention to people that we originated with the name St.Jude (the patron of Lost Causes). However a look at Darlington’s history and I start to begin to feel quite fortunate about my own team.
Having entered Administration for a third time in 10 years recently under a third chairman (Raj Singh) meant that there is clearly something wrong at the club. News at the start of the week broke that they have terminated the contracts of the playing staff as well as Manager Craig Liddle.
The 10-point penalty for entering admin means the club are now close to the relegation zone in the Blue Square Premier but that’s the least of the worries with Saturday’s game against Fleetwood potentially being called off if the Club close.
It was expected that today (Tuesday) the Administrators would fold the club by midday however news reports have suggested that former chairman George Houghton in talks with a life line takeover. He was the chairman who preceded Singh, and had also placed the club in administration for the second period in the last 10 years.
Manager, Liddle, is a Darlo hero, having been a player at the club since the late 1990’s, he remembers the days of playing at the Feethams ground and before controversial owner George Reynolds took over.
Liddle has laid blame on the new stadium, infamously named the Reynolds Arena for the clubs problems and stated that if the club had stayed at Feethams, then they would be financially healthy.
The Darlington Arena is a white elephant with not enough fans to fill it at this level of football means the running costs run in the “tens of thousands” per week according to Raj Singh.
Although various miss-management off the pitch has cost the Club dearly, they were unlucky to lose out on promotion twice via the play-offs in the last 10 years and playing in League One, could’ve seen the club make the most out of their big stadium.
George Reynolds had the right ambition but who in their right mind builds the stadium before you’ve got the team? It always seemed like a flawed plan and a gamble from the start.
Darlington player Aaron Brown, Tweeted that he drove 227 miles to train and then to be told they’ve all been made redundant but still asked to play against Fleetwood on Saturday.
Let’s remember these are players who are not on Premier League wages and have families to support, mortgages to pay. Craig Liddle himself has been very loyal to the club over the last decade but is even worried about his and his family’s future.
To think only last season the club had just finished outside of the play-offs in their first season out of the football league since the late 1980’s and also won the FA Trophy at Wembley stadium.
Now the 128 years of Darlington FC could be over unless Houghton who’s currently in talks as I type this at 3 PM with the administrators to try and negotiate a deal that would save the club.
In the 1980’s the club were close to going out of business but with fans making great fundraising schemes saved the club. In the last 10 years there have been plenty of the same, fundraising upon fundraising to save the club, which makes you wonder if it’s always going to be the inevitable.
More worryingly overall is the fact that if Darlo DO go out of business, it would be a 25% FAILIURE rate for clubs Relegated from the Football League since Scarborough in the 1990’s.
Scarborough, Chester City, Halifax Town, Rushden & Diamonds and Boston United all went out of business in the last 10 years and the FA need to work out a better procedure to help teams in these situations.
Looking for positives is hard, but if Darlington did fold, then a phoenix club in their name would start at step 5, five levels below the Conference or a new club entirely would start in Step 7.
Recently, Chester and Halifax have had success with their phoenix clubs gaining promotions at the first time of asking. Plus, stories of FC United and of course AFC Wimbledon can do wonders to fill fans with a sense of hope.
Hope is something Darlington fans are surely running out of.