Children at Sheffield grassroots football club left shaking in fear as youths on off-road bikes trash pitch

Earl Marshall Junior Football Club is campaigning for fencing around its home ground after nuisance youths have been riding on the pitch on off-road bikes.
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Children have been left "shaking and crying" out of fear after youths on off-road bikes repeatedly ride onto the pitch during games.

For the past three weeks, Earl Marshall Junior Football Club, which uses Arbourthorne Recreation Ground off Northern Avenue as their home ground, has been subjected to troublesome youths on off-road bikes ruining the pitch and circling around the children during training.

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Shaun Pask, manager of the junior football club, set up the Under 11 team last year, and six months ago he launched a Community Development School for children aged 5-12 for them to get outside, make friends, and give parents a place to socialise. 

Shaun Pask, manager of Earl Marshall JFC, on the damaged pitch at Northern Avenue.Shaun Pask, manager of Earl Marshall JFC, on the damaged pitch at Northern Avenue.
Shaun Pask, manager of Earl Marshall JFC, on the damaged pitch at Northern Avenue.

But since the off-road bikers began riding on the field and tearing up the grass, a number of concerned parents have withdrawn their frightened children from the club, and it’s not known whether the Under 11 team will be able to finish the season.

Shaun, aged 49, who lives in Norfolk Park, said a simple fence around the pitch would stop bikers coming onto the field, but he claims he has had little to no response from South Yorkshire Police or Sheffield City Council.

He said: "We’re developing kids’ skills to turn them into footballers in a place that’s safe to be, but unfortunately this has all come to an end. Parents are debating whether to come or not, and why should they put their kids at risk while motorbikes are flying around them?

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"We’re going to have to find somewhere else to play that we probably won’t be able to afford, so we don’t even know if we can finish the season. It's sad. All of the time and effort we have put into this has all been for nowt."

Shaun said that the children "shake and start crying" when the youths circle around them on their off-road bikes. 

"They tell me ‘we’re not coming again because it’s too scary, coach’," Shaun said. "We don’t even approach them because they could have knives, you just don’t know."

Earl Marshall JFC has tried contacting the police and reached out to their MP and local councillors for support, but claim the police only advised they ‘take photos and don’t put yourself at risk’.

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Shaun added: "Something needs to be done - why are they waiting until someone gets killed or seriously hurt?"

Inspector Katie Rowland-Wilson, of Sheffield South East Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "We remain committed to tackling the problem of off-road motorbikes in the area and we have run a number of operations with the help of the force's Off-Road Bike Team.

"They are a South Yorkshire-wide resource that we do not always have access to, but thanks to their efforts and patrols conducted by our neighbourhood and response team officers, we have seen some good results.

"We will continue to work with Sheffield Council to look at ways we can redesign access with regards to how off-road bikes get into the playing fields.

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"I would urge members of the community, however, to continue to report off-road bikes to us. We need the public to contact us when these incidents are happening so we can identify where and when it is happening and particularly problematic areas."

Visible track marks have been made through the pitch by troublesome youths.Visible track marks have been made through the pitch by troublesome youths.
Visible track marks have been made through the pitch by troublesome youths.

Councillor Richard Williams, Chair of Communities, Parks and Leisure Committee at Sheffield Council, said: "The intimidation of children, or people of any age, is not acceptable. This is a safety issue and we will work closely with South Yorkshire Police on this. We’re glad that the Neighbourhood Policing Team are giving this their attention, and we are requesting that our sustainable community officers patrol the area as well.

 "Our immediate step will be to meet with the club to offer our support and to work with them to find a solution, so that they can continue their great work without any issues.

 "Our Parks, Sports and Leisure teams will also look at the requests around fencing and additional dog fouling bins."

To report off-road bikes or similar nuisance in your area, get in touch with South Yorkshire Police online via the live chat facility or by calling 101.