Shares Issue May Secure Darlington FC’s Survival

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Fans and businesses could be given ownership of Darlington Football Club through a shares issue.

One proposal being discussed is the release of 50 blocks of shares at £10,000 per block, potentially raising £500,000.  Businesses and individuals could buy one or more blocks.  Alternatively, blocks could be bought by a fans’ group, allowing all supporters to take a stake in the club.

Members of Darlington Football Club Rescue Group (DFCRG) met last night to discuss their next step after they were given time to form a community organisation to run the club by administrator Harvey Madden.

The rescue group has received free advice from Andrew Cawkwell, head of our Special Situations Team.  Andrew hopes to be engaged to put the structure of the community-owned club in place.  He said he envisaged a “stakeholder organisation made up of people who were interested in the financial sustainability and long-term future of the club”.

Andrew said, “the launch of the community club would be dependent on the backing of local businesses.

A clearly defined management structure was vital to ensure the club ran efficiently and maximised revenue, he said, adding that volunteers could still be used where possible.”

Asked about the likelihood of the club continuing to use The Northern Echo Arena, he said: “My personal view is that the (Neasham Road) stadium provides a very strong earning potential for the club.”  He added that the only successful football clubs at present were those with either a wealthy benefactor, or those which were “properly commercialised”.

He said: “The existing stadium allows for that. It’s a bit of a fallacy that the stadium has been the cause of the problems for the club.”

Andrew said it was his understanding that outgoing chairman Raj Singh was backing the rescue group’s takeover bid.

However, he said it was impossible for Mr Singh to agree to waive his loan to the club – thought to be about £2m – until the community group proposal was fully disclosed.

Doug Embleton, spokesman for DFCRG, suggested the club could be used for youth training, by arts groups, the NHS and to run a creche. He added: “The aim is not just to make the club, but the location of the club, a hub of the community, where there is something happening every day.”

Shaun Campbell, also from DFCRG, added: “Sustainability is the key. We don’t want to be in this situation two years down the road.”

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman yesterday spoke in Parliament about the crisis surrounding the club.

After raising the plight of the Quakers last week, she was told that Leader of the House, Sir George Young, had notified the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport about the situation.