Sunderland junior football club left gutted after motorbike vandals rip up new pitches

Children in Ryhope are facing weeks of disruption to their football fixtures after seeing their playing fields carved up by thoughtless motorbike and quad bike users.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:51 pm

Just last month, Sunderland RCA Youth Football Club were celebrating the signing a of a lease with Sunderland City Council to use King George V playing fields to provide additional pitches for their fifteen junior teams to use.

While the fields have been subject to previous incidents of anti social behaviour and damage from motorbikes, it had been hoped the marking of pitches and installation of the goal posts would put off the illegal bikers from causing further damage.

However the club’s management team were left dismayed this week when they awoke to find large areas of the two pitches carved up and left “unplayable” as the bikers once again returned.

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(Left to right) Under 18s manager Ged Carolan, Councillor Usman Ali, and Sunderland RCA Youth Football Club Chairman Dave Ramshaw have been left "really disappointed" at the damage caused to the club's newly acquired football pitches. Picture by FRANK REID.

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Club chairman Dave Ramshaw, 62, said: “I can’t see any logic in anyone wanting to do this. It’s clear these are pitches used by the local community.

“I can’t see why anyone would get any satisfaction from damaging a facility used by the club and when so many people have put so much effort into getting these pitches here in the first place.”

It’s a sentiment shared by under 18s manager Ged Carolan, 54, who added: “It’s really disappointing that someone would come and do this. These are pitches which are for the benefit of children in the local community.

Extensive damage caused by illegal motor-cross and quad bike users.

"They haven’t just been riding across them. It looks like they have been doughnutting, spinning their bikes round in circles, and with the wet weather it has totally ripped up the pitches. As well as matches we also use the field for training and now we are not able to do so.”

With the lease signed for an initial year, the club had been considering the long-term construction of a perimeter fence.

Dave said: “In my opinion, in spite of all the hard work and goodwill, unfortunately this was an event waiting to happen without the installation of a perimeter fence.”

Ged added: “The council has been working hard by installing boulders and barriers but unfortunately, like water, these people have managed to get through. I just think people have got into the habit of using it in this way and so have no regard for the fact it’s now marked out as football pitches.

While the Council have looked to repair the churned up land, large areas of damage still remain.

"I think the football club, council and residents need to come together to try and find a solution and to ensure we have this facility for young people to use.”

The club initially feared the pitches would be out of use for the entire season but the council have responded by sending down their environment team to try and repair the damage.

Ged added: “We are thankful for the council’s quick response and are now hopeful of being able to use the pitches in a few weeks. We need these places in Ryhope for young people to play sport.”

Sunderland RCA Junior Football Club and the City Council had hoped the installation of the football pitches would stop the land being illegally used by motor-cross and quad bike users.

The initial campaign to secure the land for designated football pitches was led by ward councillor Usman Ali.

Cllr Ali said: “I’m working with police who’ve said they will monitor the situation and I’m sure we will track down those responsible. These are a few bad acorns but do not reflect the vast majority of people in this ward.”

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