Kidlington suffered an arsonist attack on Tuesday night intensifying ten years of vandalism that the club believes is the brunt of teenage boredom.
Firefighters hurled a hose over the fence of Kidlington FC grounds last week and dragged it across the pitch to douse a flaming seat after petrol was poured over the stand and set alight.
The club has gone from strength to strength and last year moved to its highest level in history gaining promotion from the Uhlsport Hellenic League, and raised £27,500 to add 50 new seats to the stand, to comply with Step 4 requirements.
Police have since confirmed the fire on Tuesday night was arson, intensifying ten years of vandalism that the club believes is the brunt of teenage boredom. Club secretary and trustee David Platt said: “For a decade we have suffered. This time they poured petrol over, destroyed the whole seat and ran off.”
He said since the stand was built they have been targeted by yobs who scrawl offensive graffiti, smash up lights, bash in the back of seats, litter drug packets and needles and burn holes in the seats – inflicting an estimated £2,000 worth of damage that the community-funded club has had to fork out for. This time a neighbour near the Yarnton Road ground saw flames roaring from the stand shortly after 9pm and called emergency services. The fire reduced one of the seats to a plastic puddle and will have to be replaced.
Kidlington resident Mr Platt, who works for the Environment Agency, said in the Oxford Mail: “We are continually frustrated. As a football club we can’t do any more. Last year we reached an elevated level of football on the brink of professional playing. It is so soul destroying with all the effort and time that goes into that. You see improvements and it’s so upsetting when some idiots come and smash them.”
The 54-year-old has been involved in the club since 1993 when he joined as a player. He said they have ‘shamed a few of them into going away’ but added: “Then you get another crop of youngsters with nothing better to do.” The engineering team leader said the club has put up cameras and signs to deter them but cannot lock the stadium at night because a public right of way runs through, with unsuccessful attempts made to get it rerouted. Mr Platt added: “They just wander in, it’s a free for all.”
Trustee Martin Belcher has been at the club for more than 30 years and one of his grandsons plays in its under 16s team. The 70-year-old said: “It seems to be yobbo’s of a very young age group. It’s not just idle hands causing a problem, it’s got serious now. This time was certainly worse than anything we’ve ever had – worryingly worse. There is just no respect.”
Referring to the arson, the Kidlington resident added: “It could have been a major disaster, it’s dangerous. We have had years of success so it’s disheartening.”