Insolvency practitioners are seeking an 11th hour rescuer for Darlington Football Club as it teeters on the brink of extinction.
The north-east of England may have a presence in the money-laden Premier League through Newcastle and Sunderland, while Middlesbrough are chasing promotion to the top flight from the Championship, but while these clubs have stable finances, significant fanbases and a high profile, the reality is different further down the ladder.
Hartlepool and Darlington are the minnows of the region and in the latter case, the club known as the Quakers has now entered administration for the third time in nine years.
While many clubs have suffered this situation and managed to either solve their debts enough to exit or get taken over, there can always be a risk that a club leaving the Football League is at greater financial risk, even if the highest level of non-league football is still a full-time professional set-up.
In Darlington’s case, the club and a rescue group formed by supporters is working hard with the administrators to secure a takeover, but unless this happens within days the club could go bankrupt – according to local MP Jenny Chapman.
Speaking in the House of Commons, she stated: “Sadly, despite the best efforts of local businesses, the Northern Echo and the local council, the club is in administration and has days, if not hours, before liquidation.”
While such an outcome may be a tragic one for Darlington, it will not be unique, as clubs like Aldershot, Accrington Stanley, Bradford Park Avenue and Scottish clubs Third Lanark and Gretna have found in the past.
Moreover, just as with other small businesses in trouble, such eventualities might also prove more common than some fear.
Speaking to the Business Desk earlier this month, Brendan Guilfoyle, from the P&A Group of administrators in Sheffield, warned that 2012 may bring several such insolvencies.
He said: “The market has changed and is getting worse; we can no longer assume we can find buyers for football clubs.”
So even if Darlington do get a last-minute reprieve, another club may soon not be so lucky.