'We have found sharpened sticks in the goalmouth' - Fears club could fold if vandalism continues
PUBLISHED: 15:09 18 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:42 18 October 2019
The founder of one of Norfolk's fastest growing youth football clubs has said it could fold unless vandalism at its training ground stops.
Jack Cassidy, founder of Dereham Saints, has spoken out following the latest spate of criminal damage to a metal gate surrounding the club's shed at Toftwood Recreation Ground.
Mr Cassidy, who started the club two years ago with just 18 players , said it is not the first time vandals have left their mark.
"It's getting to the stage where we will have to think about either moving or folding the club as it's not safe any more," he said.
"The last time, they attempted to pull the goals down. We have found sharpened sticks put in the goal's mouth sticking just out of the ground. We regularly have to pick dog mess up and broken glass off the pitches."
Dereham Town Council, which paid £6,000 to have the fence installed, commissioned emergency temporary repairs on the fence as soon as the incident was reported to Norfolk police.
The most recent damage is believed to have taken place between 8.20pm on Tuesday, October 15, and 1pm on Thursday, October 17, and showed a large square cut out of the fence.
Mr Cassidy added: "We think they were disturbed as there was no damage to the hut or shed.
"Our two girls' teams and U9s trained Tuesday evening and the fence was fine then."
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Wife and co-founder Sue added: "To try and rob a children's football club, you need to be a total low life.
"The thing that annoys me the most is that it is a kids' football club. There is nothing of any value in that shed or hut.
"We've had paint thrown over the fence, our goals destroyed . It's absolutely heartbreaking for everyone at the club - kids, parents, coaches - it's all voluntary, no one gets paid for it.
"It just feels like it's one step forward and three steps back."
The couple started the club after their son Jay, who has Asperger syndrome, was given little game time at his previous club. Since then, it has grown significantly to more than 180 children.
A number of disabled players are also involved and a wildcats groups for girls wanting to play has been set up.
The club was last targeted less than four months ago when the goalposts where damaged for a third time.
Norfolk Police are asking any witnesses to the damage to call 101, quoting the crime reference number 36/73056/19.