Ar­son in­quiry af­ter sta­dium build­ing blaze

Ormskirk Advertiser - - War Of Words Over Parking Charges Plan - BY JAMIE LOPEZ [email protected]­i­tymir­ @jamie_lopez1

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.”

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