A VILLAGE football club is in fear for its future after being repeatedly targeted by a gang of youths using the clubhouse and grounds to hold drug parties which have been posted social media.
Bags of cannabis, nitrous oxide canisters and other drug paraphernalia are being regularly found by football coaches, while shattered glass spread over the pitch has led to a fine for Milford FC being forced to cancel matches.
Josh Mantock, (24) who coaches the under-12s teams, told the A&T: “We are just very angry and frustrated with it all. Every Sunday we are having to spend nearly two hours inspecting the clubhouse and pitch and clearing them of glass and drugs.
“It’s horrid to walk into the club and see drugs all over the place. Sometimes there is smashed glass in the changing rooms and they stink of beer.
“We can’t have children turning up to that. It’s not safe. Every week we fear what we are going to find.
“Groups of youths are doing all sorts of drugs up there. We have found bags of drugs and gas canisters strewn around and often the club house stinks of weed.”
Alongside two adult teams, there are eight youth teams with children aged between seven and 15 who use the ground at the Barnes Lane recreation ground.
Josh said the drug situation began around four to five months ago. He explained: “There was a break in at the clubhouse. It was trashed and drugs had obviously been used there.
“Since then it has happened repeatedly and we believe it is being led by a 15-year old youth from Lymington who moved into the area around that time.
“We have evidence that he has posted videos and messages on Snapchat and other social media showing him using drugs at the ground and encouraging people to join him at the pitch saying, ‘I’m having a party’.”
Bosses at the club have reported the activity to police and turned over the social media evidence to them. But Josh says little seems to have been done.
He said: “The police said they would do regular drive-bys in a patrol car but so far we haven’t seen any being done.
“We are worried about our future because obviously parents will not like this situation and who can blame them. The Football Association will not be happy either.
“After the first break-in we had to scrap six Sunday games, one that was due to start in an hour, because the club was not fit for purpose.
“We were fined £70 for that. We also have backing from AFC Bournemouth community sport trust who give us several training sessions free every year. If they find out what is going on here they might not want to continue that.”
It is not just the football club that is being targeted, according to Josh. He says a shed used by the village’s cricket team had also been used for drug sessions and their pitch similarly wrecked.
He said: “We are both providing a really good community service and everybody loves coming up to the ground to play and train, even throughout the summer. It is just awful that is being ruined.”
He addressed a meeting of Milford Parish Council on Monday to tell them what has been going on and ask for their help combating it.
Josh told the councillors: “My concern is that there is a lot of young kids up there doing wacky baccy and gas. It’s happening at night in the dark where they can’t be seen.
“It’s become a well-known area for it. Sometimes the area is totally trashed. We have tried various security measures including spotlights and special locks, but they are crafty kids and manage to get in anyway.”
Among suggestions put forward by councillors were the installation of security lights and CCTV cameras.
Cllr Ken Cameron called for the culprits to be “named and shamed” saying: “We should be identifying these people if we know who they are.”
Josh told the meeting the main ringleader was “very well known to the police but they don’t seem to be able to do anything about it”.
Chairman Cllr Bob Bishop said: “This facility is used by dozens and dozens of youngsters and it’s being wrecked.”
He said he felt the council should reach out to the perpetrators saying: “There is an African saying, ‘It takes a village to bring up a youngster’.
“We should see whether we could communicate to them, embrace them, and make them see that what they are doing is just nonsense.”
Cllr Matt Goode said he felt residents living near the football ground should “play their part” by logging any issues they see and ringing 101 to report them. He added: “That gives us greater abilities to seek a restriction order on individuals.”
The council agreed to contact police about the matter and investigate the feasibility and cost of installing extra security measures.