SUPPORTERS and officials of Darlaston Town (1874) FC are hopeful the 140-year-old club will be back in League action for the 2014/15 season. The club, formed in 1874, folded in 2013 meaning this season was the first peace time season the Black Country town was not represented by a senior football team in 139 years.
At a public meeting held last week, the chairman of the new club, Neil Chambers, told supporters and well-wishers that a series of fund raising events, business sponsorships, grants and individual donations meant the club's fundraising target to set up and fund the team has been met and that the club have applied to re-join the West Midlands Regional League next season.
However if accepted into the League, the club will not be making an immediate return to their long established traditional home, the City Ground.
He informed those present at Darlaston All Active Club:
"Since the new Committee and Board of Directors were appointed in September the money needed to set up and run the club next season has been raised from several different sources. In the last six months the committee and directors have organised eight fundraising events and nearly 200 local businesses and organisations have been contacted.
"Five local companies and organisations, Jhoots Pharmacy, Rubery Owen Holdings, GMB, Paycare and Alca Fasteners Ltd have all agreed to sponsor the club next season whilst others have made donations to the fighting fund."
Alca Fasteners Ltd have agreed to sponsor the away kit but the club are still looking for a main sponsor to sponsor the home kit. As a result of sponsorships, donations from local individuals and small grants we can now look ahead to next season.
The new club chairman revealed his delight:
"This is brilliant news and I would like to pay tribute to the fantastic work of the new committee and directors over the last six months.
"This is the start of a new era and to be sustainable we will continue to need the help and support of local people and local businesses. We cannot ever again allow the club to fold as there is no guarantee that the goodwill and support shown to us in the last six months will be there in future."
News on Darlaston's possible return next season to their long-standing traditional home, the City Ground, was not as positive. The meeting was told that whilst the council has been approached nothing had yet been decided.
An official statement from the Executive Director for Regeneration at Walsall Council, Simon Neilson said:
"The council is pleased that Darlaston Town (1874) FC has secured temporary use of facilities at Bentley Road South to enable them to play next season and we will work with them over the next few months to try and help them secure more permanent facilities for the future."
In response club chairman Neil Chambers said, "When it became clear to the committee and directors that it would not be possible to return to the City Ground next season, we had to consider all local options to enable us to apply to re-join the league next season.
"To comply with league rules it was vital that a ground was found before 31 March. I am therefore delighted to say that we have signed a ground-sharing agreement with Red Star Alma FC for the use of the ground at Bentley Road South, Darlaston. I would like to thank Red Star Alma FC and particularly Paul Adshead for their help and support in ensuring the agreement was signed before the League deadline."
The meeting was told that as the ground already meets the requirements of West Midlands Regional League Division Two an application has been made to join that league for the 2014/15 season. But Neil Chambers added a strong word of caution.
"Application does not mean admittance," he told the meeting. "The decision on whether the club will be accepted into the league will not be decided until the League AGM on June 16. Like any other club wishing to join the league a vote will be taken by existing member clubs at the AGM, and only then will the club know if their application has been accepted."
The meeting was also told that the new club would be retaining the traditional Darlaston blue and white striped shirts, blue shorts and socks for their home kit, with the new away kit being yellow shirts with blue flashing and yellow shorts and socks.
In the meantime, the club are proceeding with the appointment process for a new manager for next season. Neil Chambers said,
"Whilst we are hopeful that we will be playing in the West Midlands Regional League we will need to appoint a manager irrespective of which league we join. As pre-season training will start in early July it is important that we appoint a manager sooner rather than later."
Applicants for the manager's post should send their football CV by email to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 6pm, Friday May 9. Interviews will be held week commencing May 19.
Any business interested in sponsoring the club next season can contact Darlaston FC chairman Neil Chambers on 07976 752698.