Arsonists won’t stop us playing football

October 29 2018

BOSSES of a football club attacked by arsonists have sent out a defiant message to the culprits - we will not be beaten.

The fire, at Blackhorse Sports and Community Association’s pavilion in Dibden Lane, tore through a disused wooden water tower and damaged the roof, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Club secretary Pete Brown said he has been inundated with support from members of Mangotsfield Junior FC and AFC Mangotsfield with everyone willing to give time and money to get the club back on its feet as soon as possible.

“The next day we had a dozen volunteers down at the site clearing away the debris,” Pete said.

“All our senior managers and players wanted to come up to the club to lend a hand instead of training. They were all willing to have a go. My phone didn’t stop ringing. The response from parents and everyone involved with the club has been fantastic and they are doing everything they can to push us on.

“We’re hoping to get everything ready to play on Saturday. We’re very determined people here at the club and this certainly won’t stop us.”

A total of six teams from the juniors and five from the senior club, with many members from Emersons Green, are based at the ground in Dibden Lane, with around 20 other teams playing at Pomphrey Hill and Badminton Road.

Pete, who has been secretary for 20 years, said the latest attack on the pavilion is just one in a long string of incidents at the teams’ 1960s base.

“We’ve had the lease for three years, in which time we’ve had loads of trouble with vandalism, graffiti, drugs and people getting on to the flat roof to break the water tower. I’ve had my car vandalised in the car park after confronting a couple of teenagers. It’s an ongoing problem but this latest incident is serious - it could have burned the whole building down.”

The fire broke out around 6pm on Monday October 22. One of the team managers alerted Pete, who dashed down from his home in Staple Hill.

“It only took me a few minutes but by the time I got there, the place was well alight. There were about three fire engines there,” he said.

“I thought the whole place was going to go up, as there were a lot of flames coming from it. 

“I realised it was just the housing around the old water tower but there was still a massive danger of the whole flat roof, which is on top of all the changing rooms and showers, being burned down. It was only thanks to the fire brigade for being so quick that this didn’t happen.”

Pete said he was waiting for repair quotes to come in: “About half the flat roof needs to be repaired and there’s smoke and water damage but just guessing I would estimate it to cost around £5-6,000.”

Club chairman Colin Sutton immediately set up a Crowdfunding page in a bid to raise £5,000 to help with the repair bill.

“This act of malicious criminal damage could potentially ruin the football environment of 100s of boys, girls, seniors and volunteers at the club. It is also used for vital community groups during the week,” he said on the page.

Donations, along with messages of support, have already been flooding in.

“This is a tragedy for the youngsters who go there every week and an act of small mindedness from the person(s) who did this,” wrote one supporter who donated £50.

“Best of luck in raising your target and more. As a parent of a Mini Mango our little boy was distraught to hear of this,” another said.

One woman said: “As a football fan I can only imagine how devastating this is to everyone involved with the club.”

Planned fundraising quiz and race nights have been cancelled because of the strong smell of smoke but will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

“A spokesperson for Avon Fire and Rescue said two crews from Temple and Kingswood fire stations were called in shortly after 6.15pm to tackle the fire, which was being treated as a suspected arson attack.

The spokesperson said: “Two firefighters in breathing apparatus used two high pressure hose reels and one 45mm jet to extinguish the fire.

“The cause is thought to be deliberate.”

An Avon and Somerset police spokesperson appealed for witnesses to the incident to come forward.

He said: “A disused wooden water tower on top of the football club was on fire. We are treating the fire as suspicious.

“We have carried out house-to-house enquiries.”

Anyone with information should call the police on 101, quoting crime reference number 5218 236 525.

If you would like to donate to the crowdfunding appeal, go online and visit bit.ly/2ScGsc3.