Irlam had some unexpected and uninvited visitors at their Silver Street ground last Sunday afternoon
Travellers forced their way into the club’s car park, and told club officials they would only move if they were paid off to the tune of £2,000.
A convoy of 13 caravans arrived at Silver Street at around 4.30pm, and local police started to receive multiple calls from residents about the incident, from around 6.10 pm on Sunday.
Irlam Club Secretary Warren Dodd said the travellers said that unless they got a payment of £2,000 to leave straight away, they would leave at their leisure.
The caravans had arrived after a children’s birthday party at the clubhouse, and Warren says it is believed the travellers had planned to enter the car park earlier that day, damaging a padlock on the gate to gain entry.
“When we tried to lock the gate we noticed that the lock had been cut, so we couldn’t close the gate properly,” he said.
“Within 15 minutes of Club officials leaving the ground a convoy of caravans made their way up Silver Street and entered the car park.”
The club worked closely with the Neighbourhood Watch in the area, who asked the police to enforce a section 61 order which would force the travellers to leave the site.
Warren added: “We were negotiating with the police for unauthorised encampment and haven’t paid the £2,000. We have never had anything like this before.”
A spokesperson from Greater Manchester Police told Irlam FC : “They have gone on to the site and there are roughly 17 caravans and a similar number of cars.
“They have made an agreement with the landowner that they will be leaving by Friday”.
The resulting problems caused the postponement of the Club’s home fixture against Atherton LR on Tuesday night. However, on Thursday, one of the Club’s members brought down a security expert from one of his businesses. He engaged with the travellers on behalf of the Club.
“I’m not quite sure what was said to the travellers, but 3 or 4 hours later they had packed up and gone”, said Warren.
“It’s a timely reminder to all Clubs that open gates leading to a decent plot of land – your car park is all they need. If you don’t have a game on or other function, don’t leave main gates open. I know we will be more vigilant in future”.