Vandals force Swaffham Rugby Club to close its grounds
© Archant Norfolk 2014
A rugby club hit by vandals has been forced to close its grounds to the public.
Swaffham Rugby Club has suffered from break-ins, fly-tipping and antisocial behaviour over the past few years and has decided that enough is enough.
Although the North Pickenham Road site has always been private property it has been used by members of the public for dog walking and as a short cut into the town.
Club chairman Ian Milligan said it was disappointing that the club had been forced to take such action.
He said: “It is really sad that you have to do something like this. We want to be part of the community.
“The club has probably spent the best part of £5,000 in total.
“The break-ins cost about £1,600 each in terms of damage, then we have had to change all the locks and so on, which is expensive.
“These days clubs don’t have a lot of money to spend and I would rather be spending it on rugby.
“Before we left it open because it’s a green space and kids can play on it and hopefully they might end up joining the club.” The club also had to pay for the removal of rubbish which had been dumped on the land.
From Monday, September 1, the club will be closing its gates when there is no one on the site and will be putting up notices to make it clear that the site is private property.
A gap in the fence which has been used for public access will also be closed off.
A temporary block had been put on the gap used to access the site, however, it only lasted around 48 hours before it was broken.
Dog fouling has also been a problem on the pitch. Mr Milligan said: “The other night one of our members was down there and there were three people in our marquee throwing stones at the lights until they broke every single one.
“When they were asked to leave they said ‘what are you going to do about it’?
“It is because of incidents like this that we are having to take action.
“We are letting people come on here and we expect them to treat it as they would their own property.”
Mr Milligan has warned that if people refuse to leave the property when asked, the club will be forced to contact the police, who have been made aware of the situation.
He said: “As chairman, this is not the kind of thing I want to be dealing with.
“I’d rather be getting on with the rugby. We will be getting back into training and matches again soon, so there will be someone there pretty much every night.
“Hopefully that will make a difference for a bit.” Mr Milligan said he was disappointed that a compensation order made by the courts over the first break-in the club suffered still had not produced any money.
The club’s first team currently play in the Greene King IPA Eastern Counties Division 1.
Is your community having problems with anti-social behaviour and vandalism? Contact reporter Doug Faulkner by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org