Washington AFC boss Gary Sykes is ready to run...

Washington AFC boss raising funds for pitch fences after spate of vandalism

LOCAL football club chief Gary Sykes has launched his own bid to help protect pitches from future vandalism.

After Washington AFC’s greenspace at the Northern Area Playing Fields was destroyed by miscreants late last year on two separate occasions, once in October and once on Christmas Eve, chiefs decided to take a stand and begin raising money to fence off the pitches to discourage any further wrong-doings.

Following the second event, Washington Deaf FC set up a crowdfunding campaign to help protect the shared fields from more damage and to date, the original campaign has raised nearly £3,500.

The state of the pitches after December’s round of vandalism…

But Mr Sykes is now on his own mission to help get his club the support it’s looking for and with outdoor sports set to resume this coming Monday, March 29, under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, he says he’s doing all he can to assist.

“My passion for the last 24 years has been football, coaching and running,” he said in a post on the AFC page.

Over the many years I have devoted my time to evolve myself as a coach, with the aim of developing and inspiring a generation of young children to play football while watching them grow to young adults, and supporting volunteers at grassroots level, watching some take on their own challenges of gaining full time work in sport.

“For the last 12 years, my energy, time and passion has be centred around my role at Washington AFC to grow into a community club to provide football for everyone.

The groundskeeping team hard at work preparing the rescued pitches last week…

“There have been many challenges during these times and the biggest challenge at present is to minimise the damage being caused to our grass pitches at the Northern Area Playing Fields, a ground where Sunderland AFC were once based. Over the last 12 months during the pandemic the pitches have been vandalised by cars, causing damage.

“This is soul-destroying and destroys the good voluntary work our ground staff Scott, John and Mark put into ensuring these pitches are usable weekly by our members in the community and also to opposing teams that travel to the games.

“I will be running for Washington AFC to help raise money for our fencing at The Northumbria Centre. We are currently at £5000 [total] and still need to raise further funds…so I have set myself a challenge of running 40 miles for my 40th birthday.

“Support would be much appreciated not only to protect our fields, but also allow the many young players and adults to continue enjoying their football.”

Find out more at Gary’s Just Giving page.