Junior Sunderland football club hits out after pitches damaged for second time in three weeks
“All we want is for our kids to be able to play football” – a dismayed junior football coach has hit out after pitches get ripped up by joyriders for the second time in less than a month.
Three weeks after seeing the pitches at King George V playing fields, Ryhope, ripped up by motocross and quad bikers, children representing Sunderland RCA Youth Football Club were looking forward to returning to competitive action after repair work carried out by Sunderland City Council.
However, players and staff have been left devastated after on Sunday night (October 24) joyriders once again carved up the playing surface with what this time has been reported to have been a car.
Under 18s manager Ged Carolan, 54, said: “This time it looks like a car has been doing doughnuts which has left tread-marks six inches deep. We were about to get back playing there in the next couple of weeks and it’s just so disappointing this has happened again.
"Surely these people must realise these are pitches used by local kids. It’s just mindless actions of people who are saying “we are going to do it anyway”. It’s really annoying and I just feel like they are sticking two fingers up to what we are tying to do.
"All we want is for our kids to be able to play football.”
With fifteen junior teams providing sporting opportunities for more than 200 children, the pitches provide a vital playing area for three teams to use. The extent of the damage has now left Ged wondering “if we will be able to play on these pitches again this season”.
He added: “We’ll have to wait for the Council to assess the damage. I’ve played on pitches before where areas have been filled in, but never to this extent.
"Where coming into winter and I certainly can’t see them being useable for the next month.”
The club was only granted a lease from the Council for the playing area at the start of the season and it was hoped the installation of goal posts and marking of the pitches would help reduce a history of anti-social behaviour (ASB) – including the illegal use of motorbikes.
The initiative was led by ward councillor Usman Ali, who after hearing about the incident said: “This is really disappointing and as a community we need to work alongside the police to stop this ASB. I urge anyone who sees ASB to report it to the police. The more logs they have the more likely they are to do something about it.”
Cllr Ali believes the latest incident strengthens the case for a perimeter fence to be installed.
He added: “I think this is the only long-term solution. We are formally consulting residents and if enough people are in support, we can access funding to install a a fence.”
Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller added: “Sadly, we’ve some very anti-social motorbike riders and the City Council and our colleagues at Northumbria Police are very aware of the problems these bikers are causing.
“In the last 12 months we’ve issued 29 community protection warnings and a community protection notice against anti-social motorcyclists.”
The club is also conducting its own survey with local residents about the installation of a fence and other facilities.