JUNIOR football club officials are "heartbroken" after travellers appeared on the pitches they have been forced to use since their original home was destroyed by vandals earlier this year.
Travellers arrived on the Moorend Park playing fields, in Cleckheaton, on Tuesday afternoon with around 30 caravans setting up.
Tina Hardy, Club Secretary of Liversedge Juniors FC, who merged with Cleckheaton Sporting Juniors FC last May, said there were more arriving too.
The club has seven junior sides, with around 80 children in total, and they were in the process of recruiting more players.
Now they have nowhere to train or play games, piling more tragedy onto a club that moved from its original ground after severe vandalism, four months ago.
Liversedge Juniors FC’s Mann Dam pitch, which is also in Cleckheaton, was destroyed back in March by quad-bikes, completely ripping the playing field to shreds.
The football club were left “dismayed” and “disgusted” back then and it piled more misery on the club after part of one of the pitches was scorched when youths allegedly set fire to wheelie bins they had manoeuvred onto the playing field in January 2020.
Mrs Hardy said: “The grass is growing back over it, but it’s still bobbly, we’re not able to use that until September.
“Luckily we’re on shutdown until August 21, it’s just whether the council clear up after, because they left a right mess last time.
“There was horse manure all over, they didn’t clear that up until we came on.”
The club secretary said travellers tried to get onto Moorend Park last year, but residents were watching them.
This time, they seem to have entered at a point near the corner of the pitch, heading towards Cleckheaton town centre, to get the vehicles on, she claims.
It is question now of how long the travellers will remain before they are either evicted, or decide to move on, and Mrs Hardy said: “God knows what’s going to happen to the pitch.”
She added: “We just really don’t know what to do.
“I feel sorry for the residents as well, it was one of the residents who let me know.
“It’s just terrible, everybody is volunteers as well, all the coaches.
“It’s just heartbreaking.”
That local resident who alerted the club was Peter Carling.
He rang police and Kirklees Council at 3.15pm.
Mr Carling said: “I noticed a caravan in the corner of my eye had got onto the field. I used to work for Wakefield enforcement and they have a lot of issues with travellers there, so I knew what we were in for.
“But they just kept coming.”
The playing fields are more than just an open space for Mr Carling and his family to enjoy.
He said: “We can’t take the kids out into the field or the play park.
“We don’t have a garden, so we used to use the field as a garden in a way.”
For him too, it is a waiting game.
He said: “There’s no dog walking for the next few months.
“It’s very possible, it all depends how quickly the council can get them moved off, with the whole bureaucracy.
“The police can’t get involved unless they’re breaking the law.
“The problem is they know all the legal loopholes.
“They’ve been here less than a day and already rubbish is piling up on the floor."
Travellers have also set up camp at a second site in Cleckheaton - Hunsworth Park. Kirklees Council is going through the processes of taking back possession of the two sites.
Councillor Paul Davies, Cabinet Member for Corporate at Kirklees Council, said: “The council is aware of the encampments on Moorend Park and Hunsworth Park in Cleckheaton.
“In both instances we are undertaking the relevant procedures to regain possession of the land.”