Repeated cases of vandalism at community football facilities are putting the safety of players at risk, officials have warned.

Northbank FC in Carlisle have seen their dugout areas at their Sheepmount pitch trashed twice in recent weeks.

In Penrith, meanwhile, Danny Grainger said his Cumbria Football Academy facility was lucky to avoid serious damage after people drove a 4x4 vehicle over some of the pitches.

Northbank discovered that some of their benches had been destroyed last weekend, just two weeks after finding evidence of a fire being started in one of the dugouts.

They also found broken glass at the scene of the incidents.

Northbank official Peter Shepherd said the club were hugely frustrated that such volunteer-led grassroots football facilities were being targeted.

He said: “One of the benches from the dugouts has certainly been destroyed on Saturday night, and a couple of weeks before people had actually tried to set fire to the benches as well.

“It’s also the fact there’s glass about. Staff at the Sheepmount now have to scour the pitch for glass – it just needs one small piece not to be found and someone’s at risk of a bad injury.

“Our under-15s also use that pitch so you could be talking about young lads really suffering for that.” Mr Shepherd said he did not believe it was the result of a vendetta against Northbank, more a case of “some youngsters having too much to drink and deciding to go silly.”

He added: “Maybe it’s a case of coming out of lockdown making people think they can go a bit daft.

“It’s a bit out of the way up at the Sheepmount and maybe they’re doing it in the assumption they might not be seen.

“I know other clubs have suffered this as well.

“It’s quite disheartening and it just seems daft. We’re a volunteer organisation, nobody gets paid, we’re a typical grassroots football club.”

Mr Shepherd added that all involved were determined to try and stop such incidents.

He added: “It can’t continue. It’s going to cost us and the Sheepmount money.

“I’m sure, in terms of the dugouts, the Sheepmount will try and put something in place that’s relatively comfortable for clubs and managers. But to make the place completely vandal-proof is difficult unless you had a mobile dugout unit, but they aren’t cheap.

“The police have been notified before but I guess they have a lot on their plate at the moment. I’m sure a couple of patrols on a Saturday night could nip it in the bud, but who knows?”

Grainger, the former Carlisle United captain and Workington Reds manager, was also frustrated to find large tyre marks on one of his academy pitches in Penrith earlier this week.

He said that it could have caused serious and long-lasting damage had conditions been wet. He said: “We always come to check the pitches first thing in the morning after doing the school run.

News and Star: Danny Grainger (photo: Ben Challis)Danny Grainger (photo: Ben Challis)

“As we came in saw two tyre marks that have gone onto the pitches – they’ve come on the nine-a-side pitch with what looks to have been a 4x4, with how wide the wheel base is, driven a across the pitch, made a little track around the goals, gone over that three or four times, gone over the training area, and it seems they’ve gone over there round and round in circles, chewing it to pieces.

“We’ve been very lucky that it was very dry. It left a mark but thankfully nothing catastrophic. If it had been wet, all of a sudden the kids aren’t playing football on those pitches for weeks until they are back in a playable state.

“We’ve got a tournament in May for 20 primary schools and that was one of the pitches that should have been used – we’ll have to move it to a different area now. On another day we’d have had to cancel the schools tournament.

“It’s just frustrating more than anything. Why? What benefit do you get from doing something like this, which risks stopping kids playing football?”

Grainger said it was unclear how those involved had accessed the pitches but said CCTV is being installed at the facility.

A spokesperson for Cumbria Police said: “Where we see multiple incidents of antisocial behaviour the neighbourhood policing team will declare the area a priority location for the police and our partners.

“We would encourage the public to continue to report anti-social behaviour and vandalism as this is the best way to direct resources to the right areas to combat these incidents.”

Anyone with any information should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.