St Albans City FC owners “devastated” after break-in wreaks £5,000 worth of damage

The damaged fruit machine which was thrown down the concrete steps from the bar

The damaged fruit machine which was thrown down the concrete steps from the bar - Credit: Archant

St Albans City Football Club bosses say they are devastated after burglars broke into the team’s ageing headquarters causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and leaving a trail of destruction.

Herts Police have launched an appeal for information following Monday’s break-in at the Saints’ base at Clarence Park.

About £200 was stolen in the burglary, but vandalism of the premises has resulted in about £5,000 worth of damage.

The break-in has prompted the club’s co-owners, Lawrence Levy and John McGowan, to repeat their call for support from St Albans district council for the building of a new stadium elsewhere.

A spokesman for Herts Police said that a member of the public alerted the service after hearing alarms ringing at the Saints’ headquarters at about 3.30am.

He said that offenders had forced open a door to the storeroom and gained access into the main building and bar area, where they broke into the tills.

A forensic investigation has since been carried out.

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Tom Norman, the club’s commercial manager, said that when he arrived at the headquarters he was greeted by a trail of destruction as four doors had been ripped off hinges, broken glass was strewn behind the bar counter and a fruit machine had been thrown down an external stairwell, ripping holes in the concrete steps.

Reacting to the break-in, Lawrence and John said: “It is devastating to be broken into. Not only was cash stolen, but there was considerable damage to the premises which we have to rectify urgently, at considerable cost.

“The power was also cut, resulting in further damage which we need to get sorted before the pre-season games start.”

The co-owners added: “Although we will install extra security measures so this does not happen again, incidents like this clearly show the club’s need for considerable investment in a new stadium.”

The Saints lease their base from the council but there are major restrictions upon its use, with a historic trust deed hampering efforts to expand and modernise.

John and Lawrence have long complained about such restrictions and problems with the ageing facilities – parts of which date back to before the Second World War.

They have said that it is neither suitable nor financially viable to remain at Clarence Park, particularly as the Saints head into their 2014/15 Conference South campaign.

Lawrence and John said: “We are one of the few clubs at this level operating from outdated facilities which are not appropriate for a club in a city like St Albans.

“It makes us uncompetitive and stops our ability to progress and be a continued inspiration to the youth in our community.”

The council’s executive leader Cllr Julian Daly said that while he was “saddened” by news of the burglary, he was cautious about the club’s proposed move from the park.

He went on: “I think a central location is desirable. I wouldn’t be keen on them moving to a Green Belt site, because there would be planning issues and you cannot say that a football club has special circumstances to build on the Green Belt. But I do understand their situation.”