Vandalism blights Harpenden Town Football Club

PUBLISHED: 18:53 07 April 2011 | UPDATED: 11:56 08 April 2011

Harpenden Town Football Club.  State of disrepair.  Right to left club secretary Les Crabtree and president Wynn Owens.

Harpenden Town Football Club. State of disrepair. Right to left club secretary Les Crabtree and president Wynn Owens.

Archant

OFFICERS at a vandalised football club are appealing to local businesses, residents and the site owners to help them safeguard its future.

Smashed windows, flooded floors and broken bottles strewn near the pitch are a frequent sight at Harpenden Town Football Club which is based in Rothamsted Park.

Members of the 120-year-old club are fed up with vandals wrecking their facilities and admit they are struggling to maintain the clubhouse and grounds that they have been leasing for about 50 years.

They are appealing to local businesses, residents and facility owner St Albans district council to help revamp their base or the club could end up being relegated.

It is also in desperate need of someone to run the bar, a groundsperson to help maintain the pitch, and additional committee members.

The club has come a long way since it originated in 1891 when four bored boys were given some coins to help buy a football and ended up collecting enough money and attracting fellow footie fans to get it started.

Club secretary, Les Crabtree, stressed that while the club was currently enjoying success on the pitch, it needed to provide a certain standard of facilities to stay in the league.

Ideally, improvements would include larger dressing rooms with separate shower facilities for men and women, a protected walkway for players entering the pitch and perimeter fencing.

Les explained that if the club did not comply with the Football Association ground grading rules, “we get relegated down and down, until we cease to exist.”

But, he went on: “We can’t afford to do this without serious outside investment.”

Speaking inside the clubhouse, which is unnaturally dark because eight of its 10 windows have had to be bricked up following ongoing smashing sprees by vandals, Les explained that part of the problem was the hidden location of the club’s facilities.

The pitch, near an oak tree planted by Sir John Lawes in 1887, is out of view, surrounded by high hedges and down a quiet tree-lined lane. The nearby brick clubhouse is also tucked away, located beyond tennis and swimming venues in Rothamsted Park, off Amenbury Lane.

Asked about the damaged metal grills on some windows, smashed glass panes and lights at the clubhouse, Les said: “We are being vandalised all the time. On the final day of school term you can guarantee the place will be an absolute mess.”

Even the seats have been ripped from the small stand built for visitors and when there is heavy rain, the nearby lane sends a torrent of water into the low-lying clubhouse.

Les said that while the club had not formally approached the district council for help, he had spoken about his concerns to Rothamsted Park management committee, which feeds back information to council.

Town councillor Tony McFarland described the facilities as being “like a jewel in the crown of Harpenden that is being left to wrack and ruin.

“It’s like an inner-city slum. I was shocked to see the state of the surroundings.”

He suggested local businesses band together and organise a “big tidy up.”

Anyone able to offer assistance is invited to contact Les at les-crabtree@lineone.net

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