Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Vandalism, Drug Deals and Dogs Putting Our Kids at Risk

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Vandalism, Drug Deals and Dogs Putting Our Kids at Risk

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Brown Reporter

A FIVE-YEAR-OLD boy was bitten on the face by a dog whilst training at a football field which is battling daily episodes of anti-social behaviour, vandalism, fires and dog mess.

And the chairman of Cleveland Juniors, where more than 400 children are coached from its Mill Hill base in Acklam, says they might not last another year if things don't improve.

Michelle Rush told how she and coaches at the site have to clean up dog mess, broken bottles and cans, debris from fires and drug paraphernalia on a daily basis.

And she says the club is also fighting a losing battle against dozens of youths vandalising the site, people driving cars and motorbikes on the fields and dog walkers who let their pets off the lead while children are training. One five-year-old was bitten while training, said Michelle, while another suffered gashes to their leg after falling on a broken tin can.

The club moved into a purposebuilt clubhouse, costing more than PS400,000 in August last year, but already it has been the target of fires and break-ins, with bricks and stones hurled at the facade.

And coaches have witnessed drugtaking and what they suspect to be drug deals on the site.

Michelle - who realised her late dad, club founder Frank's dream to build a clubhouse to turn Cleveland Juniors into a community club - says she doesn't know what else she and other coaches can do.

She said: "We have more than 400 members training across 25 teams. We welcome girls and boys, disabled children, adults. We have an academy for under-privileged children which has between 100 and 200 people attend on a weekend. We have also helped about 50 teenagers with training and volunteering.

"I don't know what more we can do. It is heartbreaking to start another day by spending 20 minutes clearing the pitch of dog muck, broken bottles, drugs and all sorts. …

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