Evo-Stik Northern Premier League title chasers Darlington have received a big boost with the news that they are to return to their home town after a near four year absence.
The Quakers, currently sat second in the NPL table, have played their “home” games at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park since their demotion into the EBAC Northern League in 2012.
That left supporters with a fourteen mile journey to see the Quakers in action.
On Friday morning, after months of rumour and speculation, it was revealed that the club will finally be returning to Darlington, as a groundshare agreement with Darlington Rugby Football Club was announced.
It was confirmed that the move will take place in time for the 2016/17 season and could coincide with their promotion to the Vanarama National League North, if they can carry on a run of form that has seen them win thirteen of their last fifteen games in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
A joint statement released by the clubs said “Today Darlington Rugby Football Club and Darlington FC 1883 have jointly announced that negotiations relating to a ‘Ground share’ at Blackwell Meadows have reached a positive conclusion.
“The agreement will allow Darlington FC to commence the 2016 /17 season back in Darlington at Blackwell Meadows.
“Within the announcement they confirmed that all funding streams were progressing towards the common objective of developing the stadia and facilities to accommodate both sports”
Michael Wilkinson, the Chairman of Darlington RFC commented “The agreement we have entered into secures and benefits both clubs and creates a stable future for sport within Darlington and the surrounding areas.”
Wilkinson also acknowledged the support of Darlington Borough Council during the process as he added; “This is the first major step towards the realisation of our ambition to create a premier multi-sports facility for the community of Darlington”.
John Tempest, Director of Darlington FC, stated; “This agreement between our two clubs represents the achievement of a key milestone in the further development of DFC since 2012.
“We have been encouraged by supporters, business and community partners in our ultimate aim of returning to play our games in our home town of Darlington.”
And the move was also one that delighted the man spearheading the Quakers promotion charge.
Manager Martin Gray revealed how important the announcement could be to his side’s performances on the pitch, although conceded that they would be taking things “one game at a time” as they look to overhaul leaders Blyth Spartans as the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League season heads into a thrilling climax.
“We are back in Darlington, that is the big thing. We didn’t want to spend another year, or another two years, out of the town. We are back in Darlington, that is the top and bottom of it.
“It can only help us but we are so focused on what we have to do on Saturday, we don’t look any further than that really.
“It is an old, well-worn cliche, but we are taking one game at a time here. We have put ourselves in a great position and we will look to capitalise on that”
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