Abandoned football ground bigger than two Prem grounds now used by rugby minnows

In its heyday, the Darlington Arena used to be home to Darlington FC fans during their Football League days.

But the time of the stadium, which is bigger than both AFC Bournemouth's Vitality Stadium and Burnley's Turf Moor – two sides who will be playing in the Premier League next term – being packed out with Millers supporters are well in the rearview mirror.

Nowadays, the huge 25,500 seater ground plays host to rugby union side Darlington Mowden Park, whose men's and women's teams compete in National League 1 and the Premier 15s respectively.

READ MORE: Beloved EFL stadium that last hosted match in 2008 still standing after being abandoned

Built in 2003, the stadium was originally named the Reynolds Arena after Darlington's then owner George Reynolds.

However, that all changed the following year when Reynolds went bankrupt and was arrested on money laundering charges, leading to the stadium being named after various different sponsors over the years.

And while the club went into administration during that time, new owners managed to pull them out of it shortly after Reynolds handed over control.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the Millers plied their trade in the Football League.

Although they never progressed higher than League Two, they were consistently finishing inside the top half of the fourth tier of English football.

But then two periods of administration undermined that success, with the first one seeing Darlington back in trouble in 2009 despite finishing that season 12th in League Two.

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And while they managed to stick around in League Two for a couple more seasons after that, the Millers were eventually relegated from the Football League altogether in 2012 after another spell of administration. They are currently playing in the National League North.

Of course, with a home this big, the club were eventually forced to put the stadium up for sale, with Darlington Mowden Park buying the Darlington Arena back in December 2012.

The rugby club, whose women's and men's teams play in the footballing equivalents of the Premier League and League One respectively, paid a cool £2million for the ground.

Ultimately, the Darlington Arena proved to be quite the millstone around the Millers neck, with its sheer size proving a massive issue when it came to running costs for a team that simply were never going to sell it out.


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