Leeds rugby club vow after arson attack

AFTERMATH: Club chairman Pete Longbottom in the burnt out container. PIC: Simon Hulme
AFTERMATH: Club chairman Pete Longbottom in the burnt out container. PIC: Simon Hulme
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Arsonists destroyed £6,000 of rugby equipment used by hundreds of children at a Leeds club in a “mindless” act of vandalism.

They broke into a shipping container used as a storage unit at East Leeds Rugby League Club in East End Park to start the blaze on Saturday night.

Post protectors, plastic posts, tackle bags and agility hurdles were among the kit that was destroyed.

Club chairman Pete Longbottom said: “They didn’t take anything.

“When you think about the fact that we take hundreds of boys and girls off the streets and give them something positive to do, this is just completely mindless.”

The club has about 325 players aged five to 55.

The incident, on the old Copperfields College site off Cross Green Lane, is thought to have happened at about 6.30pm.

Along with the rugby equipment the intensity of the fire also badly damaged a kitchen area in a second nearby container.

The arsonists ran off before the fire was spotted by a passer-by who called 999.

Mr Longbottom, who has volunteered for the club for 15 years, added: “When I found out, I felt like I’d been kicked between the legs.

“But the great thing is the way the rugby league community had rallied round. We have already had offers of replacement equipment and we’ve got a plan to get everything back in place.

“It’s just a good job this has come towards the end of the season and not at the start.”

Police are appealing information.

Insp Jackie Hawkes, who leads the Burmantofts and Richmond Hill Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT), said: “East Leeds Rugby Club provides local people and particularly local youngsters with a positive outlet and the completely needless damage will undoubtedly impact on the work of the club.

“We are determined to find those responsible and ask that anyone with information gets in touch.”

Contact the NPT via 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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