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Phoenix Club Plan in Place for Darlington FC

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Darlington fans are putting in place contingency plans to create a Phoenix club in the non-league pyramid should the League 2 club fold in the next few weeks as looks increasingly likely. The Quakers' future has been described as 'dire' by the administrators who have been searching for a buyer. Former vice-chairman Raj Singh made a last rescue bid, but it was rejected by the administrators as unworkable. The club will be liquidated if a credible buyer does not come forward and the club's insolvency specialists have admitted they have no plans to secure a League place for next season. Last Tuesday's deadline to find new owners has passed and with debts reported to be in the region of £5m, the outlook is grim for the 125-year old club. Assistant manager Martin Gray and nine of the club's backroom staff have lost their jobs, leaving just five staff who are deferring part of their wages. The administrators must show there is an exit plan from administration, which happened in February, in order to justify to the Football League that the club can start the 2009-10 season.

David Clark from administrators Brackenbury Clark and Co. said, 'If we have no purchaser, we have no exit plan. The future of the club is absolutely in doubt. I'm extremely worried about the future of the club.' A complicating factor has been bad relations between the fans and former Darlington chairman George Houghton who did provide the funds for the club to operate until the end of the season. Mr Clark rounded on fans, blaming them for driving away potential investors. He said that abuse directed at Mr Houghton risked alienating potential investors. The abuse had become more prevalent in the last two weeks and a fan burst into the boardroom for the home game at Brentford to harangue him. Mr Clark said, 'The fans are making it worse by chasing Mr Houghton away. If another chairman comes in and sees the way he has been threatened, they will be put off.' When asked if another bidder might come forward, Mr Clark said, 'Who knows? The state of the economy doesn't help. The crowds coming into the ground don't help. The response to the charity game didn't help. We were looking for a big response [from the fans] and we only got a partial response.'

Mr Singh said that Mr Houghton's value of the club, stadium and land was 'totally unrealistic' and that Mr Houghton wanted to keep hold of the stadium because it was the only part of the company making money. He added. 'We upped the bid on Tuesday night for a final throw of the dice but it doesn't seem to make sense what is going on.' Mr Singh said there were too many parties involved in the talks, including two businessmen who have a mortgage on the land. Phillip Scott, who is now chief executive of the Priory healthcare group and Graham Sizer, a former financial director of Southern Cross Healthcare, loaned the club money 18 months ago. The sum is claimed to have been £1.7m. The pair used to work for Southern Cross, one of the UK's largest home care operators, which has its headquarters in Darlington. Tony Taylor, chair of the Darlo Trust, said, 'It is fair to say that this is serious as it has ever been and we are very worried.'

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