The decision was revealed in late-night posts via the Citizens Twitter account, which has now been renamed “Durham City AFC Supporters” by Zenith Sports Event and Management, the Australian company that has run the club for 11 months. .
In tweets posted just before midnight, the company confirmed it had “ended its relationship” with Bernard and gave a grim update on the situation.
They said: “It is with sadness that we have to announce that we have informed @DurhamFA and the @WearsideLeague that we have withdrawn Durham City from all competitions with immediate effect. @Zenith_SEM ended relationship with Olivier Bernard, senior management also resigned.
“A more detailed statement will come on Wednesday. The players have been released to join other clubs with immediate effect. We wish all the guys good luck and have provided all the help we can.
It’s been just under a decade since Bernard took control of the Citizens and immediately sought to ‘make Durham one of the best feeder teams in the North East’. His immediate aim was to forge likes with Sunderland, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough to look to develop young players in non-league play.
However, a disagreement with the owners of their former New Ferens Park home led to a somewhat nomadic existence with Consett’s Belle View and Willington’s Hall Lane both hosting Citizens home games as the club slipped down the pyramid out of league.
A new low was reached last season when Durham finished bottom of the Northern League Division Two table after winning just one of their 40 league games and conceding 196 goals.
Prior to their resignation, City were bottom of the Wearside League Division 1 table having suffered defeats in all 13 league games so far this season. They have scored just two goals and conceded 128, a record which has led them to be labeled ‘England’s worst team’ in several media outlets in recent weeks.
Reflecting on the situation and assessing the club’s future, Bernard admitted he was ready to fight to keep the club alive and was looking to find a solution “in the next few days”.
He told The Echo: “Last night the club parted ways with Zenith because I wasn’t quite sure which direction they were going. I had to do something but I didn’t implement it. It didn’t work, that’s for sure. He kept the login for Twitter, he won’t give it back. He does everything to close it. I hope to be able to fix this by tomorrow.
“He has no right to close the club in this way. I don’t know how it works with the league because it seems that the league has been informed that the club has folded. Hopefully I can resolve this problem over the next few days because we want the club to continue and we want to keep fighting.
“I’ll take care of that for now. I have a few people interested, but it all depends on the advice of the club. People say they want it, but they don’t know what to do with it. We will keep it for the moment, we will see the support we will have. People will understand that the club has been around for a very long time and needs people who care to keep it going.
Bernard insisted he still cared about the welfare of the club, despite stepping back to focus on other business interests over the past two years. He has now appealed to local authorities to help him find a new home in Durham to help City survive and allay fears that their 100-plus-year existence is about to end.
“The club needs help, if you don’t get help from the authorities they can’t progress. The club as far as I know won’t give up, they are still spinning but we all have to stick together. elbows to make this happen. It’s a community club that’s been around for a long time and it’s not just about me, the manager, one player or one fan who can keep it going. We all need to come together that.
“I still care about the club, I always cared but I put other people in place to run it because I had other business interests and that meant I had to focus on them at the moment. I didn’t put the Aussie in because I told them I had other interests and could spend time at City like before The previous committee found the Aussie and put him in set up, but they told me they weren’t happy. The thing is, since I left New Ferens Park, we’ve had very little help finding new ground. I don’t know Not exactly what’s going on right now, but I’ll work to find out and make sure the club stays alive and moving forward.
Durham’s decline has had a devastating impact on one of their former Northern League rivals after an unpaid debt of over £2,000 caused financial worries for former owners Willington – but Bernard has now confirmed to The Echo that he had ‘spoken to the league and will pay this club debt’.
A statement from the Wearside League on Tuesday morning confirmed they had received notification that the club had submitted their resignation: “The League can today confirm that they have received the resignation from Durham City AFC with immediate effect. This will be reported to the league committee and a fine according to league rules will be imposed.
The Echo has contacted Zenith SEM for comment.