For the third time in less than six months, Croydon Football Club are having to dust themselves down and pick themselves up again after vandals broke into their clubhouse and trashed it, causing thousands of pounds of damage.
The unexpected costs of repairing and securing the clubhouse “could cripple our season before it has begun”, the club said today.
As news of the latest break-in spread around the local community and football fans, appeals went out to, among others, Glastonbury head-line act Stormzy to help by using his mighty social media presence to publicise the club’s plight, and to Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish to arrange for a Palace v Trams fund-raising friendly.
But if the out-pouring of support for the club’s plight over the last 24 hours can be matched on Saturday, The Trams could have to welcome a record crowd to Croydon Arena for their first match of the new season.
The break-in occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning at the clubhouse in South Norwood. The club had been victim of two similar acts of mindless vandalism in March, when friends in non-league football and the local community rallied round to help to repair the damage caused.
When the latest break-in was discovered yesterday, Croydon FC tweeted, “Awful news from the club this morning. Volunteers turn up to clear the garden and paint, to find the club smashed to pieces. Community classroom destroyed, new office and board room turned over.”
The club was hoping that CCTV footage might help the police to identify the culprits.
A crowdfunding appeal has been launched, hoping to raise £3,000 towards repairing and replacing what has been damaged. The county football association and other organisations have also been approached to help the club.
“The club has always struggled financially and this unexpected cost could cripple our season before it has begun,” the club said.
“If you can’t give money then any volunteer time would also be appreciated.”
There is some suggestion that this return visit by vandals could be part of a growing trend for attacks on local sports clubs – anecdotal reports suggest that as many as 20 non-league football clubs, cricket pavilions and rugby clubs may have been targeted around south London so far this year.
This morning, Croydon FC issued the following, dignified statement on social media: “The Croydon FC Management Board would like to thank all those volunteers who gave up their time at the weekend to help get the club ready for the new season. It is never easy at Croydon FC and the break-in in the early hours of Sunday morning is a real body blow.
“Thank you for those people who came down on Sunday to clear up the mess and put doors back on so we could lock the clubhouse last night. We will keep going.”
Later, they added, “Time to focus on community football in Croydon
“We need to have your support on Saturday especially with recent events. So if you’re a CPFC fan looking for a local game please come to your local non-league team in SE25.”
With the Premier League kick-off a fortnight away, Croydon have made an appeal to Palace fans, after being starved of football action for all of eight weeks, to turn-out in force for The Trams’ first match in the Southern Counties East league’s First Division, following relegation last term.
After having to stage club trials for new players on public pitches in Lloyd Park and playing a series of friendlies at away grounds – the club cannot afford the £300 per match hire fee for the council-run Arena without decent gate receipts – early results under new coach Liam Giles and his team suggest that Croydon’s prospects on the pitch this season may be much improved.
They have even got the backing of the South Norwood Tourist Board, the energetic band of anarchistic eccentrics whose motto is “Don’t Fuck With The Tourist Board”.
If The Trams get half the number of spectators on Saturday for their 3pm kick-off against Rochester United as they got tweets and messages of support and good wishes after the latest break-in, there could be a crowd of a couple of thousand surrounding the running track.
As the Tourist Board stated last night, “In the face of all this adversity, The Trams’ response has been to – heroically – set up a new women’s football team. Women’s football is dear to Croydon FC cos in the mid-1990s under future England captain Hope Powell they did the league and cup double. An amazing achievement for a small club.
“Yesterday the women’s team joined the chairman Mark Hudson, his wife, the women’s team manager and the programme compiler in making the clubhouse safe and tidy for next Saturday’s opener.
“Palace have no league game on Saturday August 3, so why not come down to The Arena and support The Trams and the women’s team. If 100 Eagles fans turned up it would raise £700 – enough for the women’s team to hire the pitch for a couple of home games pre-season.
“Don’t forget – kids with paying adults get in free.
“There’s a titanic struggle for football survival going on at The Arena – don’t leave it too late. Support The Trams next Saturday and we could be in for something really special – something no kissing of a Premier League away kit badge can match.”
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