Darlington refuse to play and explain: ‘We have learned the lessons of the mistakes of past owners’

Darlington manager Alun Armstrong. Picture: Andy Futers

Darlington say they have “learned the lessons of the mistakes of past owners” and as a consequence will not play tomorrow evening’s game with Boston United.

They say they lost £50,000 in January “and probably another £50,000 in February” as a consequence of grants ending but the season continuing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They were scheduled to play a rearranged game at Blackwell Meadows with Boston, who are one of a handful of National League North clubs who wish the campaign to continue.

But Quakers, whose players are now on furlough, voted null and vote in the current vote and have become the latest club to pull out of a fixture.

They have stopped short of saying they will not play again this season, which is a decision some have made, although there are now doubts over Saturday’s match at home with AFC Fylde.

“We will be reviewing our position on a game-by-game basis,” explained a club statement by Quakers, who have an FA Trophy quarter-final later on Saturday, February 27 at home to Hornchurch.

Full Darlington statement:

“After several meetings and a huge amount of discussion in the last fortnight, the Board of Directors of Darlington FC has decided that the club will not play our National League North game at home to Boston United on Tuesday 16th February.

“The issue of financial funding through grants has not been resolved since the start of the league suspension in January. Indeed, there is now doubt about whether the league is breaking its own rules by encouraging clubs to take out loans from the DCMS, according to quotes attributed to the league’s general manager in the Non-League Paper on Sunday.

“At the start of the season, in a letter to all clubs from the National League, we were informed that each club would receive “compensation for lost net gate revenue each month for the period that clubs are prevented from admitting supporters”.

“We are grateful for the National Lottery grant for the first three months of the season; however, we were clearly led to believe in September 2020 and October 2020 that in the absence of crowds then more grant funding would be received.

“This club has endured three harmful administrations, and since the fans took over the ownership of the club in 2012, we have worked very hard to make the club sustainable through many fundraising campaigns. We have learned the lessons of the mistakes of past owners, which makes us very determined not to over-burden the club with debt from a loan – no matter what the terms and repayment period are – and wipe out all the hard work of the last nine years for the sake of four months. It would be unreasonable to require us to get into debt to carry on playing when we relied on the representations by the National League regarding funding and compensation whilst playing behind closed doors.

“We are determined that we shall not trade while insolvent – indeed to do so knowingly is illegal. We estimate that we have lost approximately £50,000 in January, and probably another £50,000 in February. We therefore believe that we have just cause (under league rule 8.39) in not playing the game on Tuesday.

“There has been limited progress on the proposed lateral flow testing of players as part of Covid secure arrangements whilst every other organisation that continues to operate during the pandemic is providing testing or is gaining access to government-funded testing. Given the financial status of National League North football clubs operating behind closed doors, it is reasonable for the National League to provide, or make available, funding for such testing. This is evidenced by actions taken in other “elite” leagues. Until such testing is in place, we believe this is further justification for not playing.

“In these circumstances we believe that we have been misled by the National League, and therefore an objective independent person would consider it wholly unreasonable to require us to play matches until there is resolution to the financial and safety issues that have been known by the National League for many weeks.

“We are sure that our fellow clubs and supporters will understand and appreciate why we have taken this course of action.

“We will be reviewing our position on a game-by-game basis.”

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