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The entrepreneur bidding to save the Quakers from extinction last night outlined his plans to supporters.
Paul Wildes, 35, a Sheffield venture capitalist, plans to invest £300,000 in the club with fans contributing a further £200,000 in return for a 40 per cent share.
He told members of the Darlington Football Club Rescue Group: “I enjoy a business challenge and I do not see a bigger challenge than making the football club successful.”
Under Mr Wildes, the Quakers would continue to rent their 25,000-seater stadium from landlords Philip Scott and Graham Sizer, although there is the option to buy it for £2.1m.
When the club was liquidated by administrator Harvey Madden last Wednesday, the group produced £50,000 to allow it to continue to function until the end of the month. That money runs out on Monday, which is why supporters are being urged to buy tickets for Saturday’s match against York City, as additional funds may yet be needed.
One of the key aspects of Mr Wildes’ plan is for the supporters to own 40 per cent of the club – which will probably mean them selecting two members to sit on a five-man board of directors. The legal footing and practicalities of the fans’ shareholding has yet to be worked out.
“It is not a gimmick,” he said. “What has really struck me over the last week has been the swell of support for the football club by the people of Darlington, and that needs to continue for the club to survive.
“We want the people of the town to feel that the club belongs to them, and I believe that if they feel that, gate receipts will increase and fundraising will increase. Unless you have community involvement, the football club cannot be successful.
“It’s about making sure that people are actively involved.
It’s giving the club back to the people of Darlington – that’s not meant to sound like a cliché, but the involvement will enhance the value of the club as a business.”
Mr Wildes sees fundraising by supporters continuing with the money adding to the stadium’s revenue and being invested in the team. “I want people to feel that they have contributed to the team, to the signing of the new winger who scored on Saturday – that’d be a great feeling,” he said.
Mr Wildes has been seriously interested in the club for a week. He has had conversations with members of the rescue group, Darlington MP Jenny Chapman, as well as the landlords, and he met manager Craig Liddle yesterday afternoon.
It was, though, a surprise when he arrived at Blackwell Grange with Mrs Chapman last night for the rescue group meeting.
The high level of fans’ involvement in Mr Wildes’ plan is in line with the community interest company that Mrs Chapman has floated as one possible method of rescuing the 128-year-old Quakers.