Football club anger after arson attack

A FOOTBALL club chairman said he and his team of volunteers had been left devastated by an arson attack at their premises which destroyed all their irreplaceable sporting memorabilia.

A FOOTBALL club chairman said he and his team of volunteers had been left devastated by an arson attack at their premises which destroyed all their irreplaceable sporting memorabilia.

All photographs, trophies, medals and paperwork went up in flames as the inferno raged through the office of the Witham Town Football and Social Club on Friday night.. Computer and telephone equipment was also lost.

A group of children, who were seen leaping over a fence and running from the Spa Road ground, are thought to be responsible for the blaze which has caused thousands of pounds of damage.

The alarm was raised just before 9.30pm when a woman spotted smoke coming from the office - a demountable building just alongside the main clubhouse.


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Chairman Alan Collins, who was serving in the bar, went outside to investigate and then rushed back to call 999. When he looked again, flames had got hold of the building.

As they waited for the fire crews to arrive, Mr Collins and a group of people from the social club used hoses and fire extinguishers to prevent the fire spreading to the main building. Although the demountable was totally destroyed, thanks to their efforts the clubhouse escaped with just scorched bricks and other minor damage.

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"I had been in the office just half an hour before," said Mr Collins. "If I had still been there it might not have happened.

"We are all volunteers and we do not get paid for anything. It just guts you especially as we have probably had our most successful season ever and then you just go into this.

"It is a bit of a blow and it really knocks you back as it leaves us such a lot of work. We are just so gutted at the moment."

He added: "We have had trouble here in the past with fires in seats in the stand and the youngsters are quite open about it. Once I was cutting the grass when a group came over and set fire to the stand."

Station officer Terry Hutton, of Witham fire station, said two crews from the town plus a team from Chelmsford were on the scene within six minutes.

"The building was well alight," he said, "and we used two hose reels and two breathing apparatus crews to fight the fire. It took about half an hour to bring it under control and we stayed on the scene until about 11pm, making sure it was safe."

He said although nothing was found at the scene, firefighters were treating the blaze as "suspicious". Fire and police officers were at the site on Saturday carrying out investigations.

Mr Hutton added: "Luckily the fire was spotted very early on and the social club were able to protect the main building. They did well and the best they could. No-one was hurt and the rest of the building was saved and that is all we can ask for."

The club is thought to have been founded in the 1800s and has been at its present site for about 30 years.

This season its first team took a respectable sixth place in Division Two of the Ryman League, while the reserves won the Essex and Suffolk Border League. The under 18s were also runners up in their league.

Police are appealing for anyone with any information about the arson attack to come forward. Anyone with information should call Witham CID on 01376 501212.

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