'Heartbreaking' arson attack threatens to ruin football club after 119 years

An historic football club could be forced to shut its gates after nearly 120 years because of an attack by arsonists just weeks after it was vandalised.

The aftermath of the blaze at Pelsall Villa's ground
The aftermath of the blaze at Pelsall Villa's ground

Pelsall Villa was set alight in the early hours of Sunday with the committee room and recently refurbished toilet block being destroyed.

Dozens of new seats donated by Stoke City have also melted.

The arson attack took place as the club, on Walsall Road, was in the process of repairing extensive damage already caused by vandals just weeks earlier.

They broke in and ripped holes in walls and ceilings as well as smashing windows and throwing red paint around.

WATCH footage of the aftermath:

Chairman Darren Phillips has said he is ‘heartbroken’ and admitted the club could now close after 119 years.

He told the Express & Star: “We are devastated, absolutely devastated. It is heart breaking, it really is. We do not know where we go now.

“Me and Mark [Bentley, co-chairman] were down there in the morning and my initial reaction was enough’s enough. Do we throw £5,000 at it to let it burn down again?

“It could be the end of our 119-year-old football club. We are three weeks away from the start of the season and it is unlikely we will have our ground ready.

“We do not know if we can ground share, we do not know what the league will do either. We have a ground that no longer meets league criteria.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at Pelsall Villa
The aftermath of the blaze at Pelsall Villa's ground

“I do not know where to go now. After the last spate of vandalism everybody pulled together and there was a lot of money, time and effort put into the club to get it ready for the new season.

“There are no words to described what has happened.

“Me and Mark agreed we are going to sleep on it, take stock and do some serious soul searching before we make any decisions about what we are going to do.

“My son is on social media and he is telling me everybody is offering help but we have no answers at the moment, we need to let it all sink in and take stock.”

The fire started just before 4am yesterday with West Midlands Fire Service sending one crew from Aldridge and one from Bloxwich to tackle the blaze.

The aftermath of the blaze at Pelsall Villa's ground

Pictures of the aftermath show parts of the club have been left absolutely gutted.

Mr Phillips said: “The fire started in the committee room but it has spread to the new toilet block. We took all the doors and windows out of the committee room because they were all broken after the last break in.

“We were getting to ready to refurbish it on Monday and me and Mark were only discussing it on Saturday.

“We had seats donated by Stoke City half of which had been fitted but the other half were up against the building ready to go in and they have all melted now.

“Where the fire was electric cables run underneath and we do not know what damage that has done.”

The aftermath of the blaze at Pelsall Villa's ground

Mr Phillips is ‘100 per cent sure’ the vandals who broke into the club and caused the extensive damage three weeks ago were the ones who carried out this recent arson attack.

He said: “It is the same people as the vandalism 100 per cent, these people think it is funny.

“It is Mark I feel really sorry for, he is a Pelsall lad and it is Pelsall people who are doing this.”

West Midlands Police said it was called by West Midlands Fire Service to the club around 4.30am yesterday.

A police spokeswoman confirmed the club was investigating the incident, along with the previous vandalism incident, and has asked anyone with any information to contact the force on 101.

Messages of support have flooded in for the club, including from Bromsgrove Sporting FC which said: “Wish you all the best.”

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