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»Cash-strapped Ebbsfleet United Football Club suffered a setback at the weekend after its ground was broken into and it sustained thousands of pounds worth of loss and damages.

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Thieves broke into the Stonebridge Road stadium on Saturday or Sunday night and stole the groundsman’s equipment from the garage, including three strimmers and a lawn-mower.

The strimmers are worth £250 to £500 each and the mower is worth £400.

The intruders tried to start the club’s quad bike but were unable to and severely damaged it in the process.

The thieves also tried to break in to the club’s Learning Zone. They used a crowbar in a failed attempt to get in, causing damage to the lock and door.

Cheryl Wanless, office manager, said: “All in all, it’s going to cost a few thousand pounds.

“We think it’s somebody who knows this ground. We have the public in during games. Anybody can pay £15 and have a look around.

“The groundsman, who has been here for a long time, is gutted. He is attached to his machinery and gets it serviced regularly.”

Stress

Jessica McQueen, club director, said: “This is a double whammy. We had the game cancelled on Saturday, which meant no income, then for somebody to break in. It hits a football club of this size quite badly.

“If this was done by local people, it makes it hard to take. We would hope they would support the club rather than damage it. We are looking for the local community to support us.”

She added: “This all adds to the stress of running a football club.

“If anybody knows someone who’s trying to sell a strimmer or a lawn-mower cheap, it does not take brain cells realise where it came from. Also, if anybody saw it happen, we would ask them to let us know.”

Mrs McQueen reiterated that it was somebody who knows the stadium well.

She said the thieves had turned the sensor lights up, so that the lights would not come on when they were in the ground. She added: “It’s difficult to get around in the dark, even for me. When the lights are off there are some very dark areas.”

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