Thieves steal disabled rugby players’ wheelchair wheels

Chairman of Leyland Warriors, Phil Roberts with Secretary Peter Kearns at the Malt Kiln Fold clubhouse
Chairman of Leyland Warriors, Phil Roberts with Secretary Peter Kearns at the Malt Kiln Fold clubhouse
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The theft of wheels from disabled amateur rugby players’ wheelchairs has been described as “mind boggling”.

The callous raiders struck at Leyland Warriors ARLFC.

Astonishingly, among their heartless haul were six wheels from three stored away wheelchairs.

School children’s medals and trophies were also taken.

But club bosses have hit back at the mindless thieves – describing the raid as just a “bump in the road” for the amateur rugby league club and vowing that it will not stop its progress.

Launched in 1993, the Warriors field a total of 18 teams, from open age to young ‘Braves’.

The thieves caused hundreds of pounds of damage and stole vital equipment after targeting the new state­-of­-the­ art facilities.

Volunteers said they were ‘angry’ and ‘heartbroken’ after temporary buildings were broken into

The incident comes not even a year after the new modular clubhouse was craned into the Malt Kiln Fold site as part of £330,000 of improvements there.

The project, led by South Ribble Borough Council’s Leyland My Neighbourhood Forum, also saw the creation of a bridleway at the former Moss Side Playing Fields as well as a multi­-use track and two extra pitches for the rugby club to use.

Club chairman Phil Roberts said: “Having worked so hard with the council to develop this site and provide top class facilities for our children, it is heartbreaking when something like this happens.

“The club is run purely by volunteers who rely on membership subscription and sponsorship to survive, so to even just repair the damage and replace what was stolen will be a massive drain on our resources.”

He said despite being formed 23 years ago “it’s probably this last four or five years we’ve kicked on”.

He explained: “There’s always been a small building on the side which is just a couple of change rooms.

“We’ve got a large new modern modular building and an old Redrow Homes site office they gave us.

“They’ve ripped off one of the roller shutters and crowbarred the window open.

“Out of that kitchen area they took a good few hundred pounds of chocolate, pop and beer.”

He said they also took communication walkie talkies used on match days - and knives out of the kitchen, “which is a bit of a worry.”

The thieves broke into a shipping container used as offices.

“They have literally prized one of the shutters open by bending the bolts,” said Mr Roberts.

“I counted seventy different strikes by a crow bar. They climbed in through the kitchen window.

“There are wheelchairs in there. We keep most of the stuff off site because it’s valuable.

“There were three wheelchairs in there, there were two wheels on each chair, six wheels have gone.

“It’s mind boggling really.

“We like to think we provide a service to the community.

“Because of where we’re sited, it must have been someone who knows where we are, and knows what we do.

“I just think they’d be better served getting off their backsides and getting a job.”

He said the club had been targeted in the past.

Two wheelchairs were stolen following a break in 12 months ago; last summer a gang pulled two sets of goal posts over; and a large skip was also set on fire.

He said an estimated cost of the latest break-in could be from £1,500 to much more.

An online fund has been set up.

“We’ve had £1,200 in less than a week which is phenomenal, said Mr Roberts, 45, a self-employed sports coach, whose work includes wheelchair skills training.

Among donations are those from club members and neighbouring amateur rugby league clubs - and a match official has waived his fee.

Mr Roberts said: “Everybody is really hurt. I think most people are surprised really.

“But it’s just a bump in the road - it won’t stop us.”

Councillor Phil Smith, cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration and leisure, said: “It is utterly deplorable and sickening that anyone could target the club in this way.

“The volunteers have worked tirelessly to encourage more than 400 children into the sport and have truly put their all into transforming the site with the impressive new clubhouse.

“We have invested heavily in the area and worked hard to make it somewhere that can be enjoyed by the whole community and I’m utterly disgusted by this moronic act.

“We are in close contact with the club to offer them any help that they may need.”

Sharron Sumner, whose five boys play for the club, created the GoFundMe webpage.

She said; “We are all angry and disgusted at what’s happened as the coaches work so hard and have given so much to the community. We all need to rally around now as we don’t want the children to suffer because of mindless thieves.”

To support the drive, visit: www.gofundme.com/3cwstjv8