RINGWOOD Town Football Club has had an “upsetting” start to 2020 after having an “essential” piece of equipment stolen from its ground.

Thieves broke into the Long Lane site during the early hours of Friday, January 3, and stole a Toro 3100 triple cylinder pitch mower.

The club says the stolen piece of equipment, which was fundraised by volunteers, was worth around £4,000.

The club’s chairman Phil King said: “This mower is an essential part of our equipment. It was afforded through much fundraising and a grant from the Football Foundation.

“It’s tough enough running a club at grass-roots level without having to contend with this.”

The incident is being investigated by police.

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said: “Two people were seen entering the ground before driving the mower away.”

Mr King added: “Incidents like this are tough to take. A lot of fundraising helped us afford this crucial piece of kit.

“When someone does this, it shows they have absolutely no consideration or regard for the part grass-roots sports clubs play in the local community.

“We run 29 teams – that’s more than 400 players – so one way or another everyone is impacted.

“The theft will mean we will need to hire in equipment whilst we pursue the insurance claim. More expense.”

Mr King said: “The thieves knew exactly what they were after – brazenly they were in and out within 15 minutes – so it’s upsetting that someone has come to the ground to ‘case the joint’ beforehand.”

He also said locks on each of the security gates were damaged and had to be replaced adding to the costs for the club.

Anyone who saw anything suspicious or has information should call police on 101, quoting 44200002922.

A GoFundMe fundraising page has been set up. Go to gofundme.com/f/help-ringwood-town-fc-replace-stolen-equipment