21st February 2020
The Hot Topic – Non-League Football Clubs Blind Sided by Criminal Activity
What do Market Drayton FC, AFC Bridgnorth and Croydon FC all have in common? Sadly, it’s not their love for the big game; but a series of incidents including vandalism and break-ins.
Back in 2019; Market Drayton Town Football Club was subject to three break-ins within the space of a few weeks. These incidents caused serious damage to their premises and to the grounds seating. And they aren’t the only ones targeted…
AFC Bridgnorth’s Crown Meadow ground suffered at the hands of opportunistic thieves when they found their premises had been raided overnight with items including a till, lottery machine and bottles of alcohol missing.
Croydon FC experienced similar scenes back in March 2019, when perpetrators ransacked their clubhouse over 2 nights leaving the club in disrepair.
In a statement released for Inside Croydon, they claimed, “The football club is on its last legs financially and with the now added cost of rebuilding the clubhouse, it is an expense that it simply cannot afford.”
In all of these cases, CCTV was in operations, but like many other savvy criminals their faces were covered making them unrecognisable to police. This is a regular theme for many and so the question stands… is effective physical security overlooked for non-league football clubs?
These three non-league clubs were not situated in the same towns, cities or even regions and yet suffered the same fate because of what?
Easy access onto their premises with very low conviction rates.
As stated, physical security like CCTV and motion lights are installed for non-league football grounds to protect them from criminals. But these security measures are only effective once the offenders have accessed the grounds, giving them time to steal, vandalise and damage whatever’s in their way. Could a physical barrier be the crime preventative solution which would deter, detect and delay intruders before they can cause serious cost worthy damage?
Eastwood Hanley FC were undergoing constant visits from bikers and youths on their grounds overnight causing annoyance to officials and the community. They were one of the lucky ones who were funded by a local business to improve their physical security to stop anyone accessing their premises at night.
However, not every non-league football club has the opportunity to be supported in this way, often having to raise their own money and fund these expenses themselves. Eastwood Hanley FC stated, “We were given the £35,000 from Red Industries. The key was finding someone to fund it because it would have taken us about 10 years to raise the money.”
Like Croydon FC many non-league football clubs are financially in trouble and so struggle to afford the simplest repairs and improvements, let alone factoring in stolen or damaged goods due to break-ins. This creates a vicious cycle of crime for non-league clubs with the inability to deter and delay intruders.
The Football Association is the governing body for football in England, responsible for overseeing the amateur and professional games. According to the FA, since 2001 they have invested substantial funds into the non-league games through the Football Foundation. But is this enough with so many non-league clubs closing due to insufficient funds?
The hot topic asks; with so many non-league clubs experiencing criminal activity, would an increased level of physical security act as a crime prevention aid? And should the Football Association be more hands on with financial support to non-league football clubs… the grassroots of football?