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Article in today’s Times

Posted: Fri May 22, 2020 2:27 pm
by Leeds ex
A largely well written article in the times online sport section. Very complimentary about supporters run club and gives the boost the budget a good name check.

Re: Article in today’s Times

Posted: Fri May 22, 2020 10:01 pm
by Piggy_
For those who can’t access through the paywall.....

have you actually listened to Mott the Hoople?” It was late by the time the question came, in a Tyneside bar back in 2012, trying to make sense of a truly dramatic day at the 25,000 all-seater Darlington Arena as the town’s football team disappeared after 128 years of existence, mired in debt, but was then given an 11th-hour reprieve by two blokes in a Peugeot 308.

“We’ve got the money!” they shouted, running across the car park. Later, the pair would admit that they had been blasting the rock band Mott the Hoople on the stereo as they made a ten-minute journey in six. It was better than a last-minute winner.

Earlier a fan had placed a ceremonial Darlington FC scarf outside the stadium’s main entrance to signify its death. The receiver had said all avenues had been exhausted.

It transpired that was not quite the case. The heroes arrived, genuinely with money, the locks were taken off and the youth team coach Craig Liddle, who was in temporary charge and has a beer named after him for service to the club, spoke exhaustedly inside what always felt like a white elephant of a stadium. The drama masked the truth, everything was out of place. The stadium, built by the eccentric owner George Reynolds, was crazily big, the debt, at £1.8 million, unmanageable, the goodwill (and the cash), as it turned out, insufficient to pluck victory from the jaws of defeat.

The club went into administration, had to change its name, becoming Darlington 1883, and had to start life in the Northern League, the ninth tier of English football.

It was touch and go for a period of time — if that was it or we would start again,” says David Steel, a lifelong Darlington fan and now a member of the DFC Supporters’ Group board (of which there are 12).

“It was heartbreaking but it wasn’t a huge surprise. We had been mismanaged by a number of self serving owners. You know when you see someone running and they stumble for half a minute and then fall over? The previous 15 years was the stumble and 2012 was the fall.

“Eight years ago we were clueless, homeless and we had no players, we appointed a manager, Martin Gray, who literally had a clean sheet of paper. I’m in the camp of what happened was the best thing that could have happened. We had a blast in the Northern league, it was fantastic. We had the weird feeling of being a big fish in a small pond.

“We realised pretty quickly we were onto something and the fan model was interesting and there was a collective spirit again. The crowd was there, the team was good and were were winning.

“The club has two boards, the Supporters’ Group board and we represent the owners, which is the fans, who have 80 per cent of the stake of the club. We work with the operating board [which has five members], which is the chief exec, who runs the club day to day and realises our vision.”

There are about 800 owners of Darlington FC (who were allowed to change their name back). The drive is to be clever. In 2017, they started the “Boost The Budget” fund, where fans could pay any amount to help fund the signing and wages of players. In year one, it raised £40,000, that was doubled the following year, last season reached £103,000, and after worrying about the impact of Covid-19, of members being furloughed or losing their jobs, Steel and his fellow members went for an ambitious £100,000. As of Friday morning, the pot for manager Alun Armstrong next season in National League North (tier six) had £87,470 in it. Five days ago someone put £14 in, yesterday came £400.

“You get everything from some chucking a tenner in to a few fans who have put in significant funds,” Steel says. “It all counts, of course it does. We have got individual investors who put in £14 or five grand and everything in between. It’s a wonderful model. If somebody who put in £500 last year has been fired from their job this year and they’re struggling, they don’t have to do it and the club won’t fold as a result.

“This is the optimum example of the fans owning the club. The fans love the current manager Alun Armstrong and he did a wonderful job with the £103,000 last year, plus the rest of the money that was his budget.

“Alun came in and said he would put a bit of North East spirit back into the squad and get local lads who will fight for the shirt. We’re a good team to watch too.”

The club has moved ground twice, first to share with Bishop Auckland and then, four years ago to Blackwell Meadows, the home of Darlington Rugby Club.

It is easy to forget how much fans care sometimes. The Tin Shed, the roof of the home end at Feethams — Darlington’s home before the decision to build the arena — was dismantled in 2004, stored and brought back in 2016. Steel first went with his dad, Colin, whose last game was at the Arena, before he passed away in 2013 with cancer.

“My old fella would have loved the last eight years,” Steel says. “I used to text him from games and say what it was like being back on the terraces. We talked incessantly about Feethams. My mam says ‘he would be dead proud of you now’.

“The first time I went back on the Tin Shed was emotional. It is something else we have got, a part of Feethams. I wish we’d never left there. I first started going in 1989 and we won the Conference and the next season we won Division Four. It was the link back to being a kid. It was such a lovely feeling.”

Re: Article in today’s Times

Posted: Sat May 23, 2020 6:29 am
by jjljks
Thanks, Piggy_. Typical gesture to share this article with the rest of the fans who probably never read the Times, let alone pay for it.🙌

Re: Article in today’s Times

Posted: Sat May 23, 2020 6:44 am
by Darlo_Pete
Great article & it puts the club & it's fans in a very good light. Thanks for re-producing the article.

Re: Article in today’s Times

Posted: Sat May 23, 2020 10:43 am
by darlostu
Thanks Piggy_. Started to read the article this morning but couldn't get beyond first para without subscribing.

A good article and sums up what we have all been through and shows how we are proud of our team. I was there when the briefcase arrived and the ceremonial scarf was laid.

Shows what can be achieved by true fans who love their football club

Re: Article in today’s Times

Posted: Sat May 23, 2020 10:48 am
by Piggy_
No problem guys!
It’s a great article and good to see some national attention on our club. Let’s hope we can reach this extra 10 grand in the next few days and even go on and surpass it.