Football Non-League Notebook: Dartford are hit by tunnel vision

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The Independent Online
AN UNPRECEDENTED number of semi-professional clubs have gone out of business or been forced to drop down to a lower league in the first few weeks of the current season, with Dartford, who were obliged to resign from the Beazer Homes League last week, becoming the latest casualty.

The closure of the Darts followed the collapse of Maidstone United, their tenants at Watling Street - the ground which was sold for housing development in the summer. 'We were faced with a club with nowhere to play their home fixtures,' Dennis Strudwick, the Beazer Homes League secretary, said. Dartford tried to secure a long-term deal to use the ground of their Kent neighbours, Welling United. After using Park View Road for two home games, however, problems arose.

'We had reached agreement with Welling, but we found out that their landlords, Bexley council, would not allow them to sub- let the ground,' Jim Thompson, Dartford's only remaining director (and a former Maidstone chairman), said.

With nowhere to go, the Darts had to leave a league they first joined in 1927. Strudwick is sad that the club had not done more to secure a permanent home. 'We did not want to lose them,' he said. 'We were very patient with them, but we've been let down.'

His league lost another Kent club before the start of the season, when Hythe Town folded due to the withdrawal of their financial backer. A new club, called Hythe United, is now playing at the Reachfields stadium, in a lowly county league. The Beazer also lost the debt-ridden Worcestershire club Alvechurch in the summer, but they have managed to start up again at the reasonable level of the Boddingtons West Midlands League.

Alvechurch had been funded for several years by Geoff Turton, of the pop group the Rockin' Berries, while members of another band, Lindisfarne, have come to the rescue of a Geordie club. Having won the Northern Counties East League last season despite being in the hands of an administrator, North Shields were expelled from the HFS Loans League before the start of term.

North Shields were due to share a ground with Whitley Bay, but an unexpectedly small profit from the sale of their own ground meant that they could not meet the financial demands made by the league. However, with Ray Laidlaw and Alan Hull of Lindisfarne as directors, they have now been allowed to join the Vaux Wearside League, and can re-start their climb up the pyramid.

The Diadora League has suspended Harlow Town, whose move to a new ground had been scuppered by financial problems. Harlow are now hoping to start afresh next season at a lower level and back at their old ground.

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