Alcester Rugby Club devastated by illegal camp damage
TRAVELLERS left a rugby club looking like a “bomb had gone off” and thousands of pounds out of pocket after setting up camp at the site.
Alcester Rugby Club members described a scene of devastation, with pitches, doorways and the inside of a portacabin left covered in human and dog excrement, rubbish strewn everywhere, fires started on the patio, windows broken and furniture smashed during the week-long occupation.
Talking to the Herald after the travellers had left the club on Friday, one of the junior coaches, who asked to be referred to only as Sue as she feared for the safety of her family after being threatened with violence, said she had attempted to prevent the travellers getting onto the grounds when they arrived on 25th June.
“I was picking the kids up from school and I spotted them around 4.30pm. I tried to block the entrance with my car, but this huge bloke threatened me with an axe and said he was going to roll my car.”
Club members could only watch helplessly as eventually 42 vans and caravans took over the Birmingham Road grounds.
It took almost £5,000 in legal and bailiff fees and a week-long fight to get the travellers evicted.
“We phoned the police after they moved in on Friday and they said there was nothing we could do until the Monday,” explained Sue. “On Monday we issued an eviction notice, which meant they had 24 hours to leave. By Tuesday they decided they weren’t going to budge, so we instructed bailiffs which cost an astronomical amount. The bailiffs went in on Wednesday but the occupants played the Covid card, so police were reluctant to attend because of that.
“Eventually, because of the impact on ourselves and the local community, the police decided to issue a section 61, which gives them power to remove the occupiers.”
The last of the travellers left late on Friday evening.
Mark, another club member who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions, said: “Before he left one of them demanded money or threatened that they would return.”
Once back on the site, the members could assess the damage.
Sue said: “I was in tears when I saw the devastation and I’m quite a strong person. We all care so much, rugby is such a big family community, it made me very emotional.
“Every doorway has been used as a toilet and faeces has been wiped all over the doors.
“They’ve taken the patio lights and even – ironically given the lack of hygiene - taken the hand-sanitiser off the wall.”
Mark added: “We are horrified. They’ve basically used it as their own personal tip, and wantonly smashed things up. Financially we’re struggling after a difficult year with Covid, and this is more devastation.”
“Because of all the human waste that has been left around the place we need to make sure the club is safe for the adults and children, and they can go back to playing rugby and we can go on serving the community,” said Sue, who confirmed that the club is expected to reopen on 13th July after appropriate cleaning and consultation with environmental health.
The club has set up the Alcester Rugby Clean-Up Mission fundraiser on Gofundme, which has raised £5,200 so far.
She said: “Throughout lockdown we have lost so much and now we are losing so much more – we are trying to claw back everything we’ve had to pay out so far.”
Sue is particularly worried about the impact on young players.
“The club is at the heart of the community. Around 180 children come here every Sunday and this is their club. Sports clubs are a big thing for children, especially during Covid – they need it so much at the moment, they have been locked up for the year and now it has put us back even further.”
Sue also does not want the travelling community to be judged by a few bad apples, she said: “I’m sure the genuine travelling community are lovely people, but it’s the minority that gives them a bad name. We are all for giving people chances, as a rugby club that’s at our heart. We’re open to everyone and don’t exclude anyone.”
After the travellers left Alcester they moved onto the Warwick Ajax FC club, which suffered similar damage. They had just left the site as the Herald went to press.