0 Police called to kick off cheeky fans

It was billed as a landmark and cost a cool £1 million, but cheeky football fans are using Walsall FC's new training ground as their own personal park.

Police officers have been called on several occasions to remove people from the pitches of the state-of-the-art centre in Essington.

But it's not just youngsters who are sneaking in for a game, Pc Darren Munnerly said he had told off one group that was "old enough to know better".

"The training ground backs on to their house and they'd been having a barbecue," Pc Munnerly said. "I think they'd had one too many and propped up the garden fence with a table and gone in for a game.

"Someone called the police and we just walked right through their empty house, under the fence and caught them. They were certainly old enough to know better."

The incident happened at 9pm on June 7 but Pc Munnerly said there had been others like it.

"About three months ago, there were youngsters playing football on there," he said. "And then when we had the snow, they were sledging on there - we found the tracks they left behind."

So far, the culprits have escaped with just a warning but police said today they would be forced to take more serious action if it continued. "There are other facilities in the local community and people must realise that under no circumstances do they have permission to use Walsall FC's pitches," Pc Munnerly said.

"After each incident, the groundsmen checked the pitches over and fortunately there was no damage and therefore no further action.

"But Walsall FC have now given us clear grounds about what they would like us to do in the future.

"We will be keeping people off them. Yes, it is very tempting but people must keep off them," he said.

He added members of the community should report any trespassers to the police.

Roy Whalley, chief executive of the Saddlers, described the Broad Lane complex as a "landmark for the club" when it opened earlier this month.

Mr Whalley described the top-quality playing surfaces as "like walking on lawn".

At the time of the opening, chairman Jeff Bonser said: "It's just a different class to have a home of our own.

"A couple of the new signings have turned around and said 'crikey, is this where we're going to work every day?' It makes a difference to attracting players here. It would certainly interest me where I was going to spend five or six hours a day five times a week."

The centre includes two football pitches with the same dimensions as those at Banks's Stadium, a gym, physio area and canteen.

Source:- Express and Star

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