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Darlington Dealt Big Play-Off Blow Over Ground Grading

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Darlington have received confirmation from the National League that they won’t be allowed to compete in this year’s play-offs.

The Quakers are currently fifth in the Vanarama National League North, level on points with Chorley and Stockport County below them, but should they finish in that position or higher, they won’t be able to have a shot at promotion.

The reason being is that their Blackwell Meadows home does not have 500 covered seats which was required to be in place before the March 31st ground grading deadline.

Darlington will appeal against the decision and be in discussion with Poole Town of the National League South, who are in a similar situation.

A statement on the club’s website read: “The requirement to have 500 covered seats across two stands as at 31 March 2017 came about as a result of a change to the Ground Grading rules in May 2016 which was not picked up at the time of the development of Blackwell Meadows.

“The rules prior to May 2016 allowed temporary seating to be used for the play-offs as long as the club could show that it had obtained planning permission and had detailed plans to construct a permanent seated stand – which we of course do. To this end the Board obtained quotes for the relocation of the seating currently residing at Heritage Park which belongs to the Club in order to satisfy the requirement.

“This change in the requirement for permanent covered seating was only brought to the Board’s attention in the past couple of months. By the time the Board was fully aware of the requirement, it was not able to act because of the timescales involved and the lack of funds available.

The statement continued: “Understandably, our manager, Martin Gray, is very frustrated at this situation, as the incredible efforts of the players and coaching staff will not give us the chance of promotion this year unless the appeal is successful and we are allowed to participate in the play offs.

“We are as disappointed as everyone else that our success on the field is not reflected in our ability to move to a higher level at this time. But we would remind everyone that had we thought that we would be playing back in our home town, in the second tier of the non-league pyramid, under our original name, and all within five years of that fateful day in 2012, not many would have had faith in that dream.

“The Board is now working with the Supporters Group to set a five year plan to develop the ground at Blackwell Meadows, in conjunction with DRFC, which we hope will meet the ambitions of the manager and players and playing staff, all of our volunteers, the Board, and most importantly of our fans and the people of Darlington and the surrounding area.”

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Social media and content for the National League and Pitchero Non-League. Covers Woking FC for the Woking News and Mail. Freelance journalist for The Non-League Paper, Surrey Advertiser/GetSurrey and others. University of Brighton Sport Journalism graduate.

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