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Five-year fight nets a result for Times as football comes home

A five-year campaign by the Dartford Times has been realised, with the return ‘home’ of Dartford Football Club.

After 14 years without its own ground, the club played its first match at new stadium Princes Park on Saturday – marking the occasion by scoring a 4-2 victory over Horsham YMCA.

Since 1992, when mounting debts forced it to sell its Watling Street ground, Dartford FC has played at six different venues, and in October 2001 the Dartford Times launched the ‘Bring the Darts Back to Dartford’ campaign.

It called on Dartford council to invest in a new stadium so the club could return home and play in the town, and thousands of readers showed their support by signing the Times petition.

In April 2004, council bosses announced that it would provide funding, and on Saturday the new stadium welcomed its first capacity crowd for the Ryman Division One (South) tie.

Editor Melody Ryall said she was pleased that, with the support of readers, the campaign had been a success.

She said: “Without them filling in all the coupons and the petition the council would have had difficulty understanding the strength of feeling.

“It always seemed very odd that the football club had to play at a ground owned by another club in another town. That is why we seized the mantle and said ‘let’s see what we can do’.”

Jeremy Kite, Dartford council Leader, said: “The Dartford Times campaign helped the club survive. When the Darts were at their lowest ebb, the Times continued to report on and follow the club.

“That gave them a great deal of inspiration to carry on the fight. I am grateful to the Dartford Times because they kept the team alive.”