THIEVES trashed the base of a children's football club, stealing children's kits and precious trophies.
Bob Clewley, chairman of the Selsdon Little League, arrived at the club's pitch on Sanderstead Recreation Ground last week to find £1,200 worth of destruction.
"What really gets me about this is that we're a group completely run on goodwill and volunteers," he said.
"We let in around 300 children who can't get into private clubs and have them playing once a week for just £40 a year – we don't turn anyone away.
"After we've paid the council to use the pitches, we pretty much only just break even.
"So to find our kit container broken into and all our equipment strewn all over the Rec was extremely upsetting."
The club had its generator – worth £500 – taken, along with footballs, nets and strips.
Mr Clewley added: "Worst of all, our trophies were taken or destroyed. The container locks were broken and there was just bits of stuff all over the pitches.
"Whatever wasn't taken was destroyed. It has violated the kids' hobby. Hopefully we will be able to claim for insurance but something like this has never happened to us in our whole 22 years."
Mik Simmons, the club's vice-president, said: "I am livid, there is nothing I can do about it. I think they thought the container was the council's and fair game or full of tools.
"If they knew it was ours – a charity's – I wonder if they would have still robbed it.
"We provide for all kids, whether they live in a million-pound house or pay rent to the council.
"The kit is gone and some will be replaced but it will cost a lot. All our trophies are destroyed. We can get a trader to make us some more but it's not the point; they are really pathetic people for what they have done."
Father-of-two Mark Allanson, whose children play with the club, said: "All that time and effort at the beginning of the season and then for some people to do this – all the kids' stuff destroyed.
"Now we have to try and find the money to replace everything, which in these times is not easy. The club barely has any money."
Barry Hill has put three children through the club. He said: "I think we'll have to keep it from the kids, they would be so upset."
This year's football trials are being held tomorrow (Saturday) at 10am, and are open to boys and girls aged 7-14.
The incident happened in the same week that travellers arrived to camp on the Rec with around 15 caravans.
They were given a notice to leave by the council and moved onto Lloyd Park a few days later, costing the council almost £6,000 in clean-up costs.
They were then kicked out of the borough by the council and police last Thursday and handed a section 61, meaning they could be arrested if they return to these sites.
The same group caused £25,000 worth of mess when they were camped on Croydon Athletic Football Ground last month.Traveller camp
THE incident happened in the same week as travellers arrived to camp on the Rec with around 15 caravans.
They were given a notice to leave by the council and moved on to Lloyd Park a few days later, costing Croydon Council almost £6,000 to clear up.
They were then kicked out of the borough by the council and police last Thursday and handed a section 61, meaning they could be arrested if they return to the same sites.
The same group are thought to have caused £25,000 worth of clean-up costs when they were camped at Croydon Athletic Football Ground near Mayfield Road last month.
Last year, council officers had to deal with 83 unauthorised traveller encampments, which in some cases required bailiffs being brought in to help, at a cost of more than £128,000.
So far this year there have been 37 encampments with the majority in parks, roads or council-owned land.
Councillor Simon Hoar, cabinet member for community safety and public protection, said: "These travellers were a particularly nasty group, who were threatening and abusive.
"Thursday's operation sends out a clear message that we will not tolerate this type of behaviour in Croydon."