An Essex football club has been left devastated after a huge fire destroyed around £5,000 worth of equipment.
The container was set alight late last week
Flitch United, based in Stebbing, Essex, was targeted earlier this week when a container near to the pitch was set alight, destroying much of the equipment inside.
The club is made up of three men's teams whose season is due to start next weekend, but their short-term future has now been thrown into doubt.
Justin Winter, manager of one of the Saturday teams and groundsman for the club, has been left in shock after discovering the burnt-out container last Friday.
"I came up last night to do some maintenance work, cut the pitch and get it marked up for today's game," he said. "I opened the door and I was met with the smell and the residue."
"I'd come down on Wednesday to do some seeding and pitch repairs so the fire must have happened at some point on Thursday or Friday."
Tucked away from the main road, Justin explained that "you wouldn't know the pitch was here" and that the fire could have easily gone unnoticed.
Bags of seed and fertiliser had completely melted, the seed spreader with a plastic bucket had also been destroyed, and the ride-on lawnmower which is jointly-owned by Justin and the club has also been damaged.
If every perishable item in the container is no longer usable, the club is facing £5,000 worth of damage.
Around £5,000 worth of equipment could have been destroyed
"It's money we definitely don't have," Justin said. "The club was set up because we found we had nothing here."
"My wife set up a number of fundraisers and raised around £60,000 over two years to get the changing rooms and the electrics set up."
"As a club we don't believe in making money out of people playing football. We have a very minimal float each season and if there is more money we always put it back into the club for BBQs or a family fun day. We're doing things for the right reasons."
"We've invested heavily in our pitch and we've got equipment that's been collected or donated to us over a couple of seasons. How am I going to get games on?"
Justin has been inundated with offers of support from local residents and people across various levels of football, and one of the Flitch United players has set up a GoFundMe page to raise vital funds for the club.
The team has a fixture scheduled for today which will go ahead as planned as long as a resident's lawnmower can be used to cut the pitch.
Justin added: "It's going to have a huge impact on us."
"I'm hoping that in the very near future we might be able to get some joy but at the moment we're very much in the dark. It's been a huge shock."
You can read the original article from Essex Live HERE