DFC: Where do we go?

by Wayne Raper - 11th November 2011

dfc: where do we go?

After a winning Wembley appearance in May, the season should have seen the club push on toward promotion back to the football league where it’s spent most of its history; instead the focus has shifted to whether the club can simply survive at any level as yet another chairman announces he’s all but given up the ghost that is Darlington Football Club. Unwilling to pump the hundreds of thousands of pounds in per season needed to just limp along it seems. If the club was not sustainable at League Two level in previous years, it’s certainly not in a division where sponsorship and TV money are yet further reduced, the upshot being that for the club to have any sort of playing budget it must be provided lock, stock and barrel by a wealthy benefactor.

In years gone by there has always been a new man to step forward and herald a bright new era, with fresh ideas and the promise of progression, admittedly usually drawn by the stadium and land the club once owned, however time after time they’ve been beaten by the leech like club on life support, sucking dry the finances of those who have tried but ultimately failed.

This time around however it’s looking increasingly unlikely that a white knight will ride into Darlington and save the club. To be brutally honest even if someone was mad enough to come forward, which given the club no longer has any tangible assets since the repossession of the stadium is highly unlikely, unless they had bottomless pockets their fate would more than likely follow the previous four incumbents and we’d see the now all too familiar cycle start over again.

However other clubs seem to manage at this level, and manage quite well based on some of the beatings the club has taken at the hands of part-time teams with a fraction of Darlington’s playing budget, so why is this? The way I see it, in order for there to once again be professional football in the town again one day realistically there are only two options:

Either the future of Darlington FC in its current form must be preserved in any way possible and drastically restructured as soon as possible or the club must be allowed to die replaced by a phoenix from the flames.

Of course it may not yet be possible to save the club, given that around £500K is needed just to finish the season in the current state, however this could substantially be reduced if the club can manage to move players on and slash the wage bill which may then buy some time and with some good will from Mr. Singh the club may limp to the end of the season.  

There are pros and cons to each scenario, if the club in its current form were to perish the history and tradition will be lost immediately and possibly along with it those fans that have supported the club for many years and choose to end their allegiance rather than follow a reformed club with which they have no real identity. On the flip side a phoenix club may recapture some of the town’s imagination, create a strong bond, a sense of togetherness and go some way to eliminating the apathy which has built up around the club in recent times.

There’s a large amount of history and tradition belonging to DFC but there’s also a large amount of bad feeling and general apathy which has built up over the last ten or so years, with that in mind would the town be better trying to prolong the agony of the currently ailing club or ripping it up and starting a fresh?

Many fans have cited a loss of identity with the football club since it made the Arena home; and the cost of attending matches in relation to the quality of football on offer is, according to many disproportionate. Maybe a drop down the pyramid and the formation of more of a “fan’s club” rather than current commercially driven model may re-invigorate these people?

But would those fans who have often moaned at the quality of product on show in recent seasons really want to stand in a field and watch a possibly worse standard week-in, week-out? I’m sure optimism may initially be high along with crowd numbers in relation to the level played at, however the risk is that if the club does not make a rapid climb up at least a couple of leagues they will stagnate and become another lower non-league team in the town such as Darlington RA or Cleveland Bridge for example.

Whatever happens it’s highly likely that either the current club or a phoenix club will be playing at least a few levels below the BSP next season barring a dramatic turnaround from Raj Singh or a mystery backer coming in and funding the club. The reality is that the club is not sustainable at the current level, in its current home, and in order to ever progress we must change that. Of course this immediately throws up the question of where would either the existing club or a reformed club play their games at? There are no facilities I’m aware of in the town which would be of the necessary standard to allow a club to play at BSP level. When the issue has been raised in the past potential ground shares with Darlington or Mowden rugby clubs have been mention along with Darlington RA’s Brinkburn Road ground. There are a couple of ground share options out of town but given the reluctance of some fans to make the trip to the Arena, claiming it’s too far away, those are surely non starters.

Wherever the club plays, in order for it to prosper again it must find its own manageable, sustainable home. It’s a shame the council does not have a community stadium as many do, however maybe there’s the potential for that to change? Should the club not continue to play at Neasham Road there will be a 27,500 seater stadium sat on the edge of town potentially rotting away should new tenants not be found which does seem unlikely although not impossible. The stadium which is owned by Phillip Scott & Graham Sizer sits on a plot of land which is restricted in value by council covenants placed on it entitling the council to 75% of any profit made. It may be pie in the sky but a potential relaxing in covenants on the land under the proviso that the duo would build a community stadium on council owned land at their cost using parts from the arena may be beneficial to all parties, including the tax payer whom the council has to fairly represent.

A fans/trust run club is the ultimate dream, but in order to get to any decent level of football these days there needs to be substantial backing from a wealthy benefactor, with this in mind the only real future I see for a professional football club in Darlington is to have a board of directors running the club each willing to put a sum of money in each year along with a fan/trust representative who sits on the board. However in the current economic climate how feasible that is I don’t know, but the silver lining is that in the short term at a lower level costs should be a significant amount lower at the outset.

The fans/trust must now start actively looking for financial backing from wherever possible to be in a position to either take over the club in name only if it makes it to the end of the season, or to get a new club off the ground as soon as possible if Raj indicates that the current club won’t make it to the end of the season.

Crucial times ahead.....

Divas

Comments

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divas - 11th November 2011 14:36:35

With the stark news that Raj Singh is now fully prepared to walk away from the club Uncovered investigates what the future holds for DFC.

http://www.darlofc.co.uk/news.php?NewsID=708

shadwellman - 11th November 2011 14:51:50

Down the pan.

sasha44 - 11th November 2011 16:23:06

Would it not be better for most darlo fans to start following darlington ra , than start a club from fresh. darlington ra already have a ground ,team and club . Extra money generated by more fans should help darlington ra progress up the leagues. Having said this i do not know how far down the ladder darlington ra are from dfc.

RA1919 - 11th November 2011 16:34:42

sasha44 wrote:Would it not be better for most darlo fans to start following darlington ra , than start a club from fresh. darlington ra already have a ground ,team and club . Extra money generated by more fans should help darlington ra progress up the leagues. Having said this i do not know how far down the ladder darlington ra are from dfc.
We are in the 10th tier and have been for the last 5 seasons after relegation from Division One.

5. Blue Square Premier
6. Blue Square North
7. Evo Stik North Premier
8. Evo Stik North Division One
9. Northern League Division One
10. Northern League Division Two

mobi - 11th November 2011 16:39:42

sasha44 wrote:Would it not be better for most darlo fans to start following darlington ra , than start a club from fresh. darlington ra already have a ground ,team and club . Extra money generated by more fans should help darlington ra progress up the leagues. Having said this i do not know how far down the ladder darlington ra are from dfc.
Darlington RA are their own club with their own history. I, like most people on this board do not support Darlington RA, I support Darlington FC. If an AFC Darlo started it would be seen as the continuation of Darlington FC. The likes of Aldershot Town are still considered as the same club that left the league 20 years ago, even though they too are a phoenix club.

To put it simply, I don't want a phoenix club because I want Darlo die, I want a phoenix club because I want Darlo to continue.

DL5 - 11th November 2011 16:51:32

sasha44 wrote:Would it not be better for most darlo fans to start following darlington ra , than start a club from fresh. darlington ra already have a ground ,team and club . Extra money generated by more fans should help darlington ra progress up the leagues. Having said this i do not know how far down the ladder darlington ra are from dfc.
I see where you're coming from, an AFC DFC to me would always be another club so if DFC ceased to exist why not save the bother of starting from scratch and jump onboard with an already established club?

What's the other options?

How about we bimble on with a decimated squad but maybe a manageable wage bill, bring in pub players and students like Durham City did and in the meantime hopefully we'll be sold or Raj will sort the land and stadium issues out. Ok we'll get dicked every week and get relegated but BSN then Evo Stick premier is better than NL2 as a new club surely?

I want DFC to survive, we all do, Hell I'll turn up and play for free, no doubt 10 other souls would if asked. If he wanted to Raj could turn a team out for nothing whilst he sorted out this whole mess, that would lift the massive problem of wages. Ok I've oversimplified a solution but I'd much rather turn out 11 donkeys being paid carrots and drop a couple of leagues in the process than this club go to the wall.

quaker4life - 11th November 2011 16:54:11

I agree with mobi and have said already the RA are a seperate club and should remain that way.

divas - 11th November 2011 18:29:32

Definitely, I would never support the RA in place of Darlington

Charlie_Darlo - 11th November 2011 21:05:20

Darlington RA must maintain their own identity. They are doing relatively well at the moment.

Surely it isn't 5 years since they were relegated from Div one? If it is, my life is passing me by. I thought this was the 4th season.

RA1919 - 11th November 2011 22:30:50

Charlie_Darlo wrote:Darlington RA must maintain their own identity. They are doing relatively well at the moment.

Surely it isn't 5 years since they were relegated from Div one? If it is, my life is passing me by. I thought this was the 4th season.
Got relegated in 06-07. So yeah 5th season back in Second Division

northroadoldboy - 14th November 2011 17:11:15

With the news today from the Council it now makes it quite clear that they also feared what many Darlo fans thought in that Raj Singh was only interested in the land on which the club stands. The sob story of losing £80,000 a week has not stood in good stead as anybody who bought the club at the stage when he did was always going to lose money.

The council are perfectly right in their arguments as to why they will not budge on the '75% take' on any other use of the land apart from sporting use. Singh quite clearly wants to develop the land around the club, and I am in no doubt this has always been his intention.

As the club now slips into yet another crisis it may well be time to re-evaluate the club and let 'Darlington FC' fold and it does break my heart to say it! However things change.
The use of 'Darlington RA' is not such a bad idea (especially considering our historical links to Railways)

One thing is for certain the Council should stick to their guns as they are right (for once) in what they are saying. Hopefully Singh will stick to his threat and leave the club, his hidden agenda will not pay out and the land will not be cheaply used by him.

I am sure if Darlington FC does fold the council will endeavour to help Darlington RA into the new stadium and maybe strting from scratch will work for us like it did Wimbledon AFC.

Spyman - 14th November 2011 17:18:57

northroadoldboy wrote:With the news today from the Council it now makes it quite clear that they also feared what many Darlo fans thought in that Raj Singh was only interested in the land on which the club stands. The sob story of losing £80,000 a week has not stood in good stead as anybody who bought the club at the stage when he did was always going to lose money.

The council are perfectly right in their arguments as to why they will not budge on the '75% take' on any other use of the land apart from sporting use. Singh quite clearly wants to develop the land around the club, and I am in no doubt this has always been his intention.

As the club now slips into yet another crisis it may well be time to re-evaluate the club and let 'Darlington FC' fold and it does break my heart to say it! However things change.
The use of 'Darlington RA' is not such a bad idea (especially considering our historical links to Railways)

One thing is for certain the Council should stick to their guns as they are right (for once) in what they are saying. Hopefully Singh will stick to his threat and leave the club, his hidden agenda will not pay out and the land will not be cheaply used by him.

I am sure if Darlington FC does fold the council will endeavour to help Darlington RA into the new stadium and maybe strting from scratch will work for us like it did Wimbledon AFC.
What hidden agenda? Raj Singh has been up front from day one that the opportunity to develop the land was the main reason he got involved, and without it there would be no reason for him to finance the club.

We might not like it, but nobody, unless they have a bottomless pit of cash and support Darlington FC, would put money into this club without the possibility of a return somewhere down the line. I'd rather someone like Singh used the club with the view to future financial gain, than as an ego trip like Reynolds.

mobi - 14th November 2011 17:24:36

Spyman wrote:
northroadoldboy wrote:With the news today from the Council it now makes it quite clear that they also feared what many Darlo fans thought in that Raj Singh was only interested in the land on which the club stands. The sob story of losing £80,000 a week has not stood in good stead as anybody who bought the club at the stage when he did was always going to lose money.

The council are perfectly right in their arguments as to why they will not budge on the '75% take' on any other use of the land apart from sporting use. Singh quite clearly wants to develop the land around the club, and I am in no doubt this has always been his intention.

As the club now slips into yet another crisis it may well be time to re-evaluate the club and let 'Darlington FC' fold and it does break my heart to say it! However things change.
The use of 'Darlington RA' is not such a bad idea (especially considering our historical links to Railways)

One thing is for certain the Council should stick to their guns as they are right (for once) in what they are saying. Hopefully Singh will stick to his threat and leave the club, his hidden agenda will not pay out and the land will not be cheaply used by him.

I am sure if Darlington FC does fold the council will endeavour to help Darlington RA into the new stadium and maybe strting from scratch will work for us like it did Wimbledon AFC.
What hidden agenda? Raj Singh has been up front from day one that the opportunity to develop the land was the main reason he got involved, and without it there would be no reason for him to finance the club.

We might not like it, but nobody, unless they have a bottomless pit of cash and support Darlington FC, would put money into this club without the possibility of a return somewhere down the line. I'd rather someone like Singh used the club with the view to future financial gain, than as an ego trip like Reynolds.
I don't disagree with what you are saying, but I'm not convinced that its better to have someone in control who wants to use the club for their own financial gain rather than someone on an ego trip. I'm sure Man City fans are perfectly happy with their ego tripping owners at the moment, as are Chelsea fans. The one thing that makes the trust preferable to an individual owner is that they wouldn't be in it for any financial gain. The truth is that the destiny of the club should never be in the hands of a single individual.

divas - 14th November 2011 18:59:59

mobi wrote: The truth is that the destiny of the club should never be in the hands of a single individual.
:thumbup:

BishopQuaker - 14th November 2011 19:02:24

divas wrote:Definitely, I would never support the RA in place of Darlington
Asking people to support the RA if Darlo folded would be as likely as asking City fans to support United if their club folded.

They'ed rather eat their own s***.

Or support Rochdale.

Which is effectively the same thing.

SteveSC - 14th November 2011 19:18:39

northroadoldboy wrote:With the news today from the Council it now makes it quite clear that they also feared what many Darlo fans thought in that Raj Singh was only interested in the land on which the club stands. The sob story of losing £80,000 a week has not stood in good stead as anybody who bought the club at the stage when he did was always going to lose money.

The council are perfectly right in their arguments as to why they will not budge on the '75% take' on any other use of the land apart from sporting use. Singh quite clearly wants to develop the land around the club, and I am in no doubt this has always been his intention.

As the club now slips into yet another crisis it may well be time to re-evaluate the club and let 'Darlington FC' fold and it does break my heart to say it! However things change.
The use of 'Darlington RA' is not such a bad idea (especially considering our historical links to Railways)

One thing is for certain the Council should stick to their guns as they are right (for once) in what they are saying. Hopefully Singh will stick to his threat and leave the club, his hidden agenda will not pay out and the land will not be cheaply used by him.

I am sure if Darlington FC does fold the council will endeavour to help Darlington RA into the new stadium and maybe strting from scratch will work for us like it did Wimbledon AFC.
What news? - I think I can hazard a guess from what you go on to say, but has there ben some sort of council statement today?

Quakerz - 14th November 2011 19:20:28

BishopQuaker wrote:
divas wrote:Definitely, I would never support the RA in place of Darlington
Asking people to support the RA if Darlo folded would be as likely as asking City fans to support United if their club folded.

They'ed rather eat their own s***.

Or support Rochdale.

Which is effectively the same thing.
Eating s*** is completely different to supporting Rochdale.

BishopQuaker - 14th November 2011 20:05:51

Quakerz wrote:
BishopQuaker wrote:
divas wrote:Definitely, I would never support the RA in place of Darlington
Asking people to support the RA if Darlo folded would be as likely as asking City fans to support United if their club folded.

They'ed rather eat their own s***.

Or support Rochdale.

Which is effectively the same thing.
Eating s*** is completely different to supporting Rochdale.
Depends how you cook your s***

Spyman - 14th November 2011 23:01:03

mobi wrote:
I don't disagree with what you are saying, but I'm not convinced that its better to have someone in control who wants to use the club for their own financial gain rather than someone on an ego trip. I'm sure Man City fans are perfectly happy with their ego tripping owners at the moment, as are Chelsea fans. The one thing that makes the trust preferable to an individual owner is that they wouldn't be in it for any financial gain. The truth is that the destiny of the club should never be in the hands of a single individual.
Depends how rich they are!

I suppose those looking to make money from the situation fall into two camps. The ones who will do it by loading debt against the club a la Houghton, and the ones that are putting their own money in to keep the club going, hoping for a longer term gain from building the club and its facilities up.