Thousands of pounds worth of rugby club equipment destroyed after storage container torched
- Credit: Archant
A sports club in Dagenham has lost thousands of pounds worth of equipment after a storage container was set alight.
Dagenham Rugby Club is still counting the damage bill from the fire, which is believed to have started about 11pm on Saturday and destroyed most of the field and training equipment inside the container.
Club vice-chairman Russell Yellop said: "There was years worth of equipment in there and it's all gone up in smoke.
"The scrummaging machine is all melted and that alone is worth between £4,000 and £5,000.
"It's hard to put a figure on (the damage bill) at the moment but I'd say it will run into the tens of thousands.
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"We want everyone in the area to be vigilant because if they've done that sort of thing here, they could do it anywhere."
Mr Yellop said it appeared the bottom of the doors of the container, located behind the clubhouse, were forced open and something was poked underneath to start the fire.
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The club has been targeted by vandals in the past - including an unsuccesful attempt to force open shutters and another incident when a mobility scooter was set alight - but this is the worst attack yet.
Other incidents in the area include a recent arson at the pitch and putt on the other side of Central Park and vandalism of a play area near the club.
"It is devastating," Mr Yellop said.
"It's a bit lucky that it's the end of the season, our season finished a couple of weeks ago.
"Pre-season starts in July so we've got a couple of months before we start again - we've got to try to now get stuff back in."
The extensive equipment loss is a major blow for a club which had been growing in numbers and looking to field more teams next season.
"we'd been building the club back up, we have more youth teams coming over and hopefully a couple of ladies teams as well, so this is a kick in the teeth," Mr Yellop said.
"Without equipment you can't train."
It is also a loss for Barking and Dagenham College students and local school pupils, who also made use of the equipment.
"It's there for everyone - not just our club, the schools come over and we do coaching sessions, so it's been helping the community as well," Mr Yellop said.
Police are investigating the incident.
A police spokeswoman said: "Police were called at 11.47pm on Saturday, May 18, to reports of a fire at a sports club on Rainham Road.
"Officers attended the scene, where (London Fire Brigade) had already put the fire out.
"Multiple items of rugby equipment had been destroyed as a result.
"The cause of the fire is under investigation.
"Officers from the east area command unit are investigating and enquiries continue."