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Not your regular vandals

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Filed: Monday, 14th August 2017
By: Staff Writer

As Chairman of a local football club who happens to partake in a bit of refereeing on the side, a week barely passes without at least one vile insult being hurled in my direction.

As anyone in my position will tell you, sadly that's par for the course - you either get on with it, jack it in altogether or face the consequences of taking the law into your own hands (never a good idea). This week however I was faced with a rather different problem - that of a group of adult vandals!

For a number of weeks I've been receiving complaints from some of my Academy managers about the condition of our pitches at Thundersley Common, the ground we've called home for nearly 40 years now.

Last Thursday evening I received a call from one of my managers, who happened to be training at the Common (as TRSC teams have done since the 1970s) to inform me that an adult team were using one of the children's pitches that our Club pays a small fortune to hire every season.

I should stress that this was less than a day after 48 hours of torrential rain that had left the ground sopping wet and highly liable to cut up badly, if played on.

Now, Thundersley Rovers' policy is to train off-pitch if there's been heavy rainfall/snow prior to a session in order to prevent further damage to the playing surface. As major investors in a ground to which we are intrinsically linked, we feel it's our duty to maintain the facilities to as high a standard as possible.

Naturally, this isn't the case for our vistors, a team called Thundersley Athletic I subsequently learned, whose manager - a guy called Roland - turned out to be quite an amiable chap when I approached him and requested that his team play on the non-pitch areas of the Common - of which there are plenty - in order to prevent further damage to the children's pitch.

This polite request the adult team were initially happy to adhere to - yet less than 15 minutes later, they'd returned to the drenched children's pitch where they proceeded to tear up the surface.

Grown-up vandals

Upon enquiring why this was the case, and explaining once again that they were deliberately damaging a pitch intended for the use of children I was informed that the unmarked ground was "too bumpy" for their purposes - before receiving a volley of abusive comments and being surrounded by a group of 12-15 young men.

Brave boys, in numbers.

"We pay our taxes!" I was told by one particular bright spark. "We can play where we like and my dad's a Policeman!" retorted another - who soon fell silent when I asked him what his father would think of him and his friends wilfully vandalising facilities intended for the use of children.

In the end the evening ended in a weird kind of Mexican stand off - I (and another parent who had remained at the ground to ensure I wasn't alone) retreated to our Clubhouse, which has stood on Thundersley Common since members of our club built it in 1980 whilst the adult team remained deep in conversation at the side of the pitch they had effectively ruined before eventually leaving the ground an hour or so later.

The following day I was informed by a member of Castle Point Council that the Police had been notified of this matter - quite why and for what purpose wasn't made clear, but I'd be delighted to offer them my version of events should that be of any help.

Of course, this is a particularly difficult situation - whilst Thundersley Rovers Sports Club don't own the ground it's the parents of the children who represent the club - and the village, for that matter - who ultimately pay for the rent of the pitches and the clubhouse, who pay the electricity bills, water rates and insurance.

By contrast, the adult team who were happily ruining the pitch don't pay, nor have ever paid a single penny towards its upkeep - so why indeed should they care, or comply when asked to be a little more respectful to those who are paying for the facilities they're both using and wrecking?

The junior pitch ruined by Thundersley Athletic's seniors - pictured before and after

Given these circumstances, I maintain that it is far from unreasonable of us, as a Club, to request that any visitors to Thundersley Common use the areas of the ground on which we aren't expending many thousands of pounds and countless hours of sweat and toil on, if there is a chance of damaging the playing surface - as was the case in this instance.

I have since written to CPBC to express my concerns regarding this issue and also intend to take the matter up with our Member of Parliament, Rebecca Harris, should I fail to receive a satisfactory response.

In the meantime I ask that anyone visiting our home ground show a little bit of consideration to those who use it on a regular basis - not to mention common sense and basic good manners, unlike the ill-mannered, self-entitled individuals I had the misfortune to meet last Thursday evening.

Graeme Howlett

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