Swastikas burnt into pitch at site of illegal lockdown football matches in Hull

Sophie Kitchingin Football

Fences cut, pitches broken into and hate crime in Walton Street. Lockdown football players photographed this weekend in west Hull are the latest rule-breakers to strike at a Hull sports centre plagued by disorder.

Catherine Bishop, chief executive of TIgers Trust, said condemned those photographed playing on pitches this weekend

The Tigers Sport and Education Trust, based in Walton Street, say fences have been cut, pitches broken into and, shockingly, even swastikas burnt into its pitches.

Hull Live reported on Saturday how people spotted playing football there at the height of the coronavirus outbreak could have been breaking lockdown rules.

Speaking to Hull Live, the trust's CEO Catherine Bishop believes the damaged fences allowed those people access to the pitches at the weekend without its permission despite the national coronavirus lockdown.

Several large groups in west Hull sent home after 'Covid lockdown breaches'.

"I don't think people really know that [they shouldn't be on the pitches]," the CEO explained. "It's next to West Park and the fences and gates are all damaged."

She added: "It's been going on years but it's been exacerbated during the lockdown.

"I had to furlough 60 per cent of my staff last year. This year, we've got more people but they tend to be out in the community now working on the food banks and supporting people on the loneliness programmes rather than policing our pitches."

Damage done last year meant the charity, which would usually charge and have supervised sport in place, found itself unable to rent the pitches out in the summer.

"We have had a lot of swastikas and things burned into the pitches," the CEO explained.

"Obviously you don't want young people to see that kind of behaviour. That is hate crime and that worries us. We had a little bit [of hate crime before the pandemic] but certainly during spring/summer, we had quite a lot of incidences."

She said the charity does not condone those who have been using its pitches in lockdown: "We've got some detached youth work programmes now running," she said.

"We have a youth room in the arena. You can still work one-to-one with vulnerable young people [in lockdown] so, where we can do our bit, we will.

"But we can't be there 24/7 guarding who is going on and off and I just don't want people to think that that is our activity, or we are condoning it in any shape or form."

The charity says it has, where possible, taken measures to prevent incidents, such as at the weekend, but it has ran out of spare fencing and the means to do the work that is needed.

She added: "We have programmes where we work with international refugees, where we proactively and positively work and engage with these people around the city and we want to engage and integrate.

"But that hate crime really doesn't help us."

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