The DFCSG (Darlington Football Club Supporters Group) was established on April 10th 2015 with the merger of the CIC, Supporters Club and Supporters Trust. DFCSG holds a controlling interest in Darlington Football Club as well as being the Corporate Director of Darlington Football Club 1883 Ltd.
The purpose of the DFCSG is to be the vehicle through which a healthy, balanced and constructive relationship between the Football Club and its supporters and the communities it serves is encouraged and developed. The business of DFCSG is to be conducted for the benefit of the community served by the Football Club and not for the profit of its members.
DFCSG is the trading name of Darlington 1883 Supporters' Society Limited registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefits Societies Act 2014, registration no. 7077. Our registered office is Blackwell Meadows, Grange Road, Darlington DL1 5NR.
DFCSG rules can be viewed or downloaded here (you will need to be registered and logged in to access).
Since it's establishment DFCSG has made great strides in terms of financial support, as well as its contribution to the overall running and governance of Darlington Football Club.
A Community Share issue by DFCSG in 2016 raised £109k to provide the additional funds necessary to bring Blackwell Meadows up to Category B standard and enable Darlington FC to complete their move back to their hometown. The share exchange scheme included in the share offer allowed DFCSG to acquire £57k additional equity in Darlington 1883 Limited from private individuals in exchange for Community Shares resulted in DFCSG achieving a controlling interest in Darlington Football Club (ie, voting rights exceeding 75%).
A second Community Share issue in 2017 raised £147k towards improvements to the pitch and extension to the stand that doubled the seating capacity to meet the ground grading requirements that would allow Darlington FC to compete in the end of season promotion play offs (subject to the club finishing in a qualifying position).
DFCSG's introduction of the Boost the Budget campaign in 2017 has been phenomenally successful in providing a significant contribution to the annual playing budget. Since inception, and as at June 2022, fans have raised over £630,000. Indeed, a number of other clubs have followed DFCSG's lead but none have been so successful as our scheme.
The Fans Lottery has grown since it was first introduced by the then Darlington FC Supporters Club in 2012 from c£10k and now raises upwards of £17k each season. The proceeds from the 50/50 Draw in 2016/17 were £8k, however with the introduction of online sales in 2020/21 to complement the 'in ground' sales, proceeds increased to £20k. Proceeds from the Fans Lottery and 50/50 Draw directly support the operating costs of Darlington FC.
The skill-set within the DFCSG Board has developed over time and many of the board members have other volunteer responsibilities within the club, which has created a successful symbiotic relationship between DFC and DFCSG.
Stirling work by DFCSG’s Infrastructure Group has been delivered to investigate the viability of improvements that would be necessary at Blackwell Meadows to sustain football at National League and English Football League. The conclusions of which has led the Football Club to work with stakeholders to investigate the viability of obtaining its own stadium elsewhere in the town – this work is ongoing.
Development of the YOURCLUB platform has made it easier for fans to sign-up as members and to renew their ownership. YOURCLUB allows both free 'Fan' subscribers and DFC Owners to manage their personal DFC fan dashboard, manage their ticketing and fundraising activities, access certain discounts with a variety of our club partners, vote on regular polls during the season and have limited time access to the latest features on YOURCLUB Content.
DFCSG's controlling interest in Darlington FC means that members of DFCSG are effectively part-owners of the Football Club. Combined with the promotion of community ownership on the YOURCLUB platform, this has resulted in a steady increase of members to over 1,150, which is the highest it has ever been since fan ownership commenced in 2012.
Such is Darlington FC's standing in the FSA's 'Community Owned Club Network' that DFCSG was asked to present evidence in Tracy Crouch's fan-led review of football finance and governance. In addition, DFCSG's advice was sought by Supporter's Direct (Scotland) to improve the governance of a 'fan-owned' club in the Scottish Football League.
By combining the CIC's and the Supporters Club's shareholdings in Darlington 1883 Limited, DFCSG became the majority shareholder of Darlington Football Club and therefore became 'fan-owned'.
DFCSG's stake in Darlington Football Club has continued to grow each year and at the end of financial year 2020/21 stood at £671k. This provides voting rights in Darlington Football Club of just under 86%, which represents a controlling interest.
Having a controlling interest in Darlington FC enabled DFCSG to propose a resolution to amend Darlington 1883 Limited's Articles of Association, which obligated the Football Club to develop an engagement framework that defined the working relationship between the boards of Darlington FC and DFCSG.
At the start of the 2013/14 season, Darlington Football Club undertook a detailed fans survey and the results indicated that 73% of the fans felt that there needed to be a single group representing the fans interests.
In response, the Boards of the Supporters Club, CIC and Trust began working together and then soon sought advice from Supporters Direct (now Football Supporters' Association) on how a formal merger of the three organisations could best be achieved.
Supporters Direct's recommendation was a two-stage approach. Firstly, that Darlington FC CIC should convert from a Community Interest Company (CIC) into a Community Benefit Society (CBS) and then for Darlington Supporters Club and Darlington Supporters Trust to wind-up their own organisations and to transfer their membership and residual assets to the Community Benefit Society, resulting in a single entity to look after the affairs of the Club's supporters.
Before embarking down this path, the Boards of the Supporters Club, CIC and Trust sought the views of the members of their respective organisations and the result was a resounding vote in favour of the process recommended by Supporters Direct. As part of this consultation exercise members were asked for their suggestions on what to call a single entity representing the Club’s fans.
The initial formal step along the path to a merger was taken on 8th December 2014 when the members of Darlington FC CIC passed a Special Resolution at their AGM to convert into a Community Benefit Society. It then took a little while for the legal processes to be completed. Firstly, the CIC Regulator had to approve the conversion and then for Darlington 1883 Supporters Society Limited to be registered as a Community Benefit Society with the Financial Conduct Authority. This was duly completed on 12 February 2015.
The next significant step took place on 18th March 2015 when the Supporters Club and the Trust held concurrent meetings, during which their respective members passed Special Resolutions to transfer their engagements to the newly registered Darlington 1883 Supporters Society Limited.
At this point an Interim Board of nine was created, with three members drawn from each of the Boards of the Supporters Club, the CIC and the Trust. Immediately following this meeting, the combined membership was invited to take part in an online survey to choose a trading name for this new single entity. However, the result of the survey could not be announced until the FCA had certified that the Trust had transferred their engagements.
This was duly done and the creation of the DFCSG was announced in the match programme against New Mills on Saturday 25th April 2015. A new dawn began!