YOBS are targeting Preston North End’s Deepdale stadium in an escalating campaign of criminal damage and intimidation.
The club has revealed fires have been started outside the ground, spotlights around the Sir Tom Finney “Splash” statue smashed and a security guard subjected to numerous threats of violence. The attacks have become so serious that North End has taken the unusual step of issuing a public appeal to help identify the culprits – and warned they will seek to prosecute anyone caught committing damage or trespassing. General manager Ben Rhodes said: “If anyone knows who these people are or has any information about the incidents we would ask them to contact the police.”
“We understand they are a group of youths who have been causing a lot of problems in the Deepdale area. But because we are a big target we seem to be getting the brunt of it.”
Club staff say the yobs range in age from mid-teens to men in their early 20s. And when they have attacked the stadium they have done so in “significant numbers”.
A police spokesman said officers were aware of the problems and were investigating.
After the latest incident, where a fire was started between the Sir Tom Finney Stand and the club shop, the club decided to put out a statement.
It read: “Preston North End have been the victim of a number of incidents of criminal damage to the stadium and threats made against its staff in recent weeks at Deepdale.
“There has been extensive damage caused to fixtures and fittings around the stadium, which has recently escalated, with individuals starting fires.
“This is of course a serious matter and is of great concern to the club and local authorities.
“The club and Lancashire Fire and Rescue are concerned that if a fire takes hold serious damage will be caused to the stadium or adjoining club property.”
The club’s safety officer Mark Farnworth said: “We are working closely with the police to identify those involved to ensure that they are prosecuted to the full extent.
“If required, the club will seek to sue individuals for civil trespass and obtain court injunctions to keep them off Preston North End property.
“If anyone has any information as to the identity of those involved please contact the police or the club, all information will remain confidential.”
Mr Rhodes added: “Our security guard has been threatened a number of times by these people.
“We aren’t just talking about two or three youths, there are a significant number of them. And we do not want our staff to be put under threat of violence like this.
“These incidents began a few weeks ago, but have escalated with the starting of fires.
“It is all damage outside the ground. And it is not on match days.
“They target spotlights, including around the ‘Splash’ statue. The number of lights we have had to replace is huge.
“We are just asking people to be vigilant in the area and if they see anything to let the police know.”