Mower theft threatens club’s future

The Oxford Times: Martin Driscoll outside the clubhouse Martin Driscoll outside the clubhouse

A YOUTH football club is facing an uncertain future after its lawnmower was stolen in a £3,000 break-in.

Leaders at Chipping Norton Town Swifts fear the theft will leave them unable to practice at their Burford Road ground when pre-season training starts in August.

The clubhouse was broken into overnight last Thursday and a lawnmower, grass collector, strimmer and petrol cans were taken, the club said.

Vice chairman Martin Driscoll said the lawnmower is essential to not only cut the grass but uncover hidden rabbit holes and dog mess which children may fall into.

He said: “It is an absolutely vital piece of equipment for us.

“We will struggle now to prepare the pitch.

“There will be a little bit of danger to the boys and girls who are playing on it.”

Mr Driscoll said the club is unsure how they will find the money to pay for cutting the pitch or purchasing a new lawnmower.

He said: “We are all working hard to try to develop the club and it is just really a kick in the teeth when this happens. It always makes you feel a little more vulnerable.”

The club was not insured for the theft as they were unable to afford the cover and Mr Driscoll said it comes as the club is undergoing “genuine financial hardship”.

In April it spent £2,000 on a fence around the ground to tackle dog fouling and people driving onto the pitch.

Until the break-in, it was aiming to raise £1,000 through car boot sales and bag packing in supermarkets for the cost of new goals.

Mr Driscoll said the club, for five to 15-year olds, will now have to consider the extra expense of tighter security. It has had problems with smashed floodlights, broken windows and graffiti.

The Chipping Norton resident said: “We have had a number of vandalism incidents which have caused us financial problems.

“We have not been blessed with the funding that our other local clubs have had in recent years. A thousand pounds was going to be an achievement. There’s only so much you can ask from the local community.”

Thames Valley Police are investigating the lawnmower theft.

Police said the clubhouse was broken into by forcing a side door between 8pm last Thursday and 10.30am the next day. Anyone with information can call 101.

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