A cricket team’s clubhouse has been burnt to the ground in an apparent race hate attack.
Arsonists struck at Fothergill and Harvey Cricket Club in Littleborough, Rochdale, on Bonfire Night.
It comes a week after a break-in was discovered at the remote club which saw about £10,000 of damage caused and vile racist graffiti sprayed on the walls.
Committee members at the 40-year-old club, which is made up predominantly of Asian players, believe the two incidents are linked and fear the team could now be forced to fold.
Police are now investigating the incidents.
First team player and committee member Kamran Afzal, 34, said: “It is disgusting. The club is like a second home to a lot of us. The players put money in from our own pockets to keep it going and we do all the work on the pitch and ground ourselves.
“It is very clearly a hate crime and we have reported it to police as a hate crime.
“We occasionally get kids shouting racist abuse at us during games and training sessions as they cycle past on the canal towpath, but we have never seen anything like this before.”
Kamran, who has played for the team for seven years, says the club, whose first team were Greater Manchester League Division Five champions last season, could now be forced to fold.
The clubhouse was uninsured and Kamran says the committee cannot afford to rebuild it from club coffers.
He added: “At this stage we do not know if we are going to be able play cricket next year. If we do not get the funding to rebuild it the club will have to close down. There is about £600 in the club’s funds – we cannot afford to rebuild it ourselves.
“I am really worried about the future of the club. It is a really sad and really disturbing that this could happen.”
Other cricket clubs in the area have expressed their disgust at the attack and offered to helo where possible
Richard Holland, secretary of Littleborough Lakeside CC, said: “It’s a real shame. There is a lot of history between our two clubs. We’ve been in the same league for a number of years and a few of our lads have played there, and some of them have played for us.
“Over the last few years they have worked really hard to get the club to the situation they are in now. We will help them in any way we can, in terms of groundsmen or helping out with any equipment that might have been lost.
“I know the lads there and they can ring me at any time if they need help.”
A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said two fire engines were called to the club at about 6.40pm last night. Crews spent three hours fighting the flames. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.