Arson inquiry after stadium building blaze
AN ARSON investigation has been launched after vandals burned down a hospitality building at a Skelmersdale football stadium.
Firefighters spent two-and-ahalf hours tackling the blaze at Stormy Corner, the former home of Skelmersdale United and now a training facility for Southport FC.
They were called to the scene at 8.30pm on Monday and managed to prevent the blaze spreading into the areas now used as dining areas and a gymnasium by the Sandgrounders.
The blaze was the most significant in a number of attempted fires at the stadium in recent months as vandals have frequently targeted the stadium.
According to club officials, the burnt out building was not used as storage and the players were able to return to training at the ground the following day despite debris and water being left on the pitch.
Damage to the electrical system also prevented its use across the stadium while repair work was carried out.
The arson attack was condemned by Southport director Phil Hodgkinson but he insisted everyone at the club would carry on undeterred.
The team faces one of its biggest matches in recent history on Monday, when the highest attendance in more than 40 years is expected to watch the FA Cup replay against Tranmere Rovers at the Merseyrail Community Stadium.
The winner of that match will face Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in the following round, securing more than £250,000 additional income.
Mr Hodgkinson said: “It’s disappointing. There’s water damage and debris on the pitch which is not ideal. It’s all attached so it’s thankful the fire brigade turned up when they did and stopped it spreading to the rest of the building.
“It doesn’t stop us using it but it doesn’t set the right mindset when the lads are coming in and we want them focused but they’re met with that.
“My concern is it happening again and we’re now going to have to pay for private security, at the club’s cost.”
He added: “We’ll just have to roll up our sleeves and crack on. There’s nothing else we can do.”
Mr Hodgkinson, who is founder and CEO of the Pure Business Group, added that the stadium has been repeatedly hit and that the club is in ongoing talks over building a permanent facility closer to Southport.
The club are due to stay at Stormy Corner until at least the end of the season but are expecting CCTV and fencing to be installed by the landlord.
Mr Hodgkinson said: “It’s disappointing. If it’s kids, it’s disappointing we live a world where parents don’t know where their kids are and what they’re doing.
“If it’s the community, then they have pity that they have nothing better to do.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that the incident was a suspected arson attack.
He said: “Four fire crews from Skelmersdale and Ormskirk attended a fire at a commercial premise on Stanley Industrial Estate, Skelmersdale. The building was approximately 10m by 10m, a section of which was well alight when crews arrived. They extinguished the fire using one jet and two hose reels and some small tools were in use too.
“The cause of the fire is believed to be deliberate and an investigation is now under way. Firefighters were in attendance approximately two and a half hours.”