A SCHOOL is reeling after a three-quarters-of-a-million pound football pitch was ruthlessly hacked into by criminals less than a year after it was installed.
The £730,000 state-of-the-art pitch, belonging to the Blyth School Community College, was first targeted on Monday, September 9.
Vandals cut through the fence around the pitch, off Tynedale Drive, and damaged a small corner of the pitch, before apparently making off.
However the following night they were back, with what is believed to have been professional equipment, to cut away two massive chunks measuring up to 15 by six metres from behind the five-a-side goals.
It is estimated that the damage to the facility, which was officially opened on November 1 last year, and is also used by local football teams after hours, will cost around £25,000 to repair.
The school’s HR and operations manager Diane Houghton said: “After they had a go on Monday, we stretched the pitch back out as far as we could.
“We contacted SIS, the company that laid the pitch, and asked them to repair it, but they were working down south and not able to come straight away.
“Then, yesterday lunch time, we opened the pitch for the kids to play on and a couple of members of staff went down.
“They had been back with significant equipment to lift it and carry it.
“It’s massively heavy – a heavy-duty rubber 3G pitch. The bits they’ve taken will have required professional lifting equipment or many bodies.
“It’s despicable really, it cost £730,000. It’s terrible. We left the floodlights on to deter them last night, but we can’t do that all the time, the residents wouldn’t be best pleased and we can’t afford to.
“There is no CCTV. When Tynedale Middle School went, that went with it. We were ironically looking at the security measures when this happened.”
The stolen pieces of turf have been take from behind the goals, where there are no line markings, and Diane suspects this is no coincidence.
“It’s really fashionable to have turf in your garden,” she said. “And rather than growing your own, this stuff looks like grass.
“Part of me hopes they have had a little bit of conscience not to ruin the pitch but these are areas without the white lines on. I think it’s been taken to order.
“Last year when they installed the pitch, they had these massive 25 metres rolls. One of the rolls was stolen and they put in security after that. It’s probably the same people.
“How in god’s name they managed to take it away, I don’t know They’ve squeezed it through the fence. It must have gone on a vehicle. They wouldn’t have gone far with it on the ground.”
Police have launched an appeal to help catch those responsible and is asking anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area of the pitch, between 10.30pm on Tuesday, September 11, and 12.30pm the following day, to contact them on 101 ext 69191.
Acting neighbourhood inspector Garry Neill said: “The football pitch is used by the whole community and this theft will affect everyone who uses it.
“Police are carrying out enquiries and we’re urging anyone with any information to contact us.
“If anyone has any information about those responsible or knows where the astro turf is, perhaps someone has tried to sell it to them, then we want to hear from them.”