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Club officials and members of Fort William Football Club are being forced to mow their pitch by hand after vandals wrecked the tractor used to cut the grass at Claggan Park.
A Police Scotland spokesperson told the Lochaber Times that the incident happened sometime between May 30 and June 3, and enquiries were still on-going.
Vice-chairman Colin Wood says this latest attack is a serious escalation of the level of vandalism the club has experienced in the past.
‘This is not just youngsters being bored. Those responsible are going down a very dark path. Inevitably, if the football club is to survive we will need to lock the gates,’ Mr Wood warned.
‘Claggan is used all day every day by decent children that only want to play football. It is really sad that another green space will be lost to them because of a tiny minority.
‘We have constantly been in discussion with the Highland Council for a longer lease. We are currently on a rolling annual lease. Because of this we are not eligible for grant funding and we cannot plan for the future. We cannot, however, take on responsibility for maintenance and repair, whilst leaving the place open to vandalism and anti-social elements.’
The club has suffered a double whammy with treasurer William Edwards calling it a day after being sickened by what he said was the never-ending struggle over vandalism at the ground and the lease situation.
In a post online, Mr Edwards explained it was with a ‘heavy heart’ he had decided to resign from the club.
‘When I first got involved with club it was because the club was going to fold and we don’t know how long it will last for now,’ he added.
‘Three years ago the council gave us a lease for Claggan Park in which we were to maintain the pitch and car park which we were happy to do. The lease has sat with the council lawyers since then.
‘Every year the club has to apply for a licence and every year we have to tell the Scottish Football Association we haven’t got a lease. It’s only a matter of time before we are refused and the club will not be able to play.’
Mr Edwards said the club was not allowed to lock the gates to the ground, even to get maintenance carried out and to prevent the vandalism.
He went on: ‘In the time I’ve been involved, the clubhouse has been broken into twice; 50 per cent of the seats have been smashed up; the pitch was dug up and sabotaged; dog mess all over the pitch; motorcycles being ridden on the pitch – the list has been endless.’
Posting photographs of the damaged orange Kubota tractor, Mr Edwards explained: ‘So it with great sadness today when we have gone down to cut the grass this is the state of the tractor which we paid for to maintain the pitch.
‘Woody [Colin Wood] is actually out cutting the grass with a hand mower tonight so the grass is short enough so Carrick Sports can do the long-awaited work on the pitch.
‘I’m not looking for sympathy or praise but if there are any people that have any spare time or think they can help in any way big or small please get in contact with the club or committee members and help this great wee club out because without the help and support of the community it might not be here for that much longer.’
A Highland Council spokesperson told us: ‘Highland Council is in the process of renewing a lease with Fort William FC at Claggan Park. Discussions are ongoing between the council and the club.’
Asked about Mr Edwards’ decision to quit the club, Mr Wood told the Lochaber Times: ‘He is taking time to reflect. I really hope he reconsiders. William Edwards has been the driving force behind this club since we took over from the old committee.
‘I would like to take this opportunity to appeal for more volunteers to get involved with this club. It is hard work but very worthwhile.’