While hardly a headline-grabber on the level of The Special One refusing to shake hands with Sir Alex, or Arsenal’s Kolo Toure taking his sweet time before emerging from the tunnel after intermisison of Tuesday’s Champion’s League tie with Roma, the financial struggles of League Two’s Darlington are a slightly more substantial story. The Quakers’ 5th place status in English soccer’s 4th division has them on pace for a playoff spot at season’s end, but an automatic 10 point penalty for going into administration makes such such an achievement highly unlikely. The Journal’s Mark Douglas neatly summarizes the grim circumstances facing the 126 year old club.
While Manchester United and Arsenal™s Champions League games provided entertainment for free on television, less than 3,000 turned up for the Quakers™ promotion clash with Rochdale on Tuesday night “ half the amount required for the club even to break even. Apathy is not the sole reason that the club finds itself in the hands of administrators for the second time in six years, but it is a major contributing factor. Thanks to the ambition “ some would say vanity “ of former chairman George Reynolds, Darlington are saddled with a superb state-of-the-art arena that houses 27,500 seats but hardly suits a club with League Two status. It has been filled once, for an Elton John concert, while crowds for the football team remain miniscule and the atmosphere awful. Even last season™s promotion push couldn™t get the town out to support the club in big numbers “ and repeated appeals from current chairman George Houghton for more support have fallen on deaf ears.
Reynolds claimed yesterday that the stadium was not too big and would have been filled if the club had made it into the Premier League.
But his wild ambition sounds somewhat jarring as the club spiraled into administration again yesterday, chairman Houghton saying he had œno choice but to relinquish control.
Houghton painted a worrying picture of the club™s ill-health, revealing that Darlington have £4m of debt and are losing £54,000-a-week. Administrator Dave Clark last night placed that debt nearer the £5m mark. Houghton has personally plunged £1.1m into the club since Christmas and, despite repeated appeals for more support, the club™s attendances have seldom broken the 3,000 mark.