A cricket club is counting the cost after thieves stole part of expensive covers just days before the new season begins.
Volunteers at Boldon Colliery Cricket Club have been left angry following the theft of the top of one of the three covers which are used to keep the playing surface dry.
The burglary, which police are investigating, comes just as the New Road club prepare to start the 2017 season, with the second XI set to play its first home match on Saturday.
Secretary Alan Daw said: “We managed to get a grant last year and have bought three covers, which is what you need, for just under £5,000.
“The groundsman went down to the ground when he saw that they’ve taken one of the tops of the covers, which costs about £1,000.
“The problem is that we share the ground with several other clubs and you can’t always guarantee that it is locked 24/7.”
Mr Daw added that he thinks the cover top was stolen by someone either hoping to use it or sell it on.
“We have suffered in the past with vandalism, but this time they have taken the entire thing,” he said.
“It’s been taken off the cover by someone who knew what they were doing, so we suspect it’s someone who knows about the game.
“They’re expensive to replace and with the season starting on Saturday we’ll have to do something short-term.”
The incident has come as a real blow to the club, which is hoping to create junior sides in future.
“It’s a real disappointment that this has happened,” said Mr Daw.
“Year on year we strive to keep the club afloat, which isn’t easy at all.
“It’s not like these covers were bought out of petty cash.
“It’s just thoughtless.”
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “Police are carrying out inquiries after a cricket pitch cover was stolen from Boldon Sports Club in New Road in Boldon.
“Anyone with information should contact police on 101 quoting reference 279 200417 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”