Sports club receives overwhelming support from community after 'devastating' fire

Shefford Saints' Stewart Knight thanked the community for their support after the "awful" fire

Shefford Saints' vice chair, Stewart Knight, said that floods of people from the local community have pledged their support after the "awful" fire, including former Premier League footballer Jack Collison - Credit: Courtesy of Shefford Saints FC

A sports club which was targeted by arsonists last week has had an "outpouring" of support from the local and wider footballing community, as donations and pledges of support have come flooding in.

Shefford Saints, which is based at Shefford Sports Centre on Hitchin Road, found that their storage container had been set alight on Tuesday, April 13.

Corner flags and respect barriers, as well as training equipment for the club's teams were destroyed in the fire, which also saw the container storage unit scorched beyond repair.

A GoFundMe for the club, which initially set out to raise £2,000 to replace the damaged equipment, has now amassed more than £5,500 in donations.

One of the most substantial donations came from Robert Bloomfield Academy, as staff and students raised over £1,000 for the club with a PE-themed Mufti day. Fellow middle school Henlow Academy will host their fundraiser in aid of the club on April 30.

Former Premier League footballer and ex-Welsh international Jack Collison, who started his football career at Shefford Saints at the age of nine, said of last week's fire: "I'm obviously really disappointed to see that all the equipment was unfortunately burnt, but, as always, there's great community spirit. It's great to see everyone coming together.

Jack Collison takes part in coaching drills

Jack Collison, who played for Shefford Saints in his youth, has always maintained a strong connection with the club - Credit: Archant

"Football is one sport that really brings everyone together, and everyone's chipped in and done their bit to make sure that Shefford Saints are in a position where they can function and continue to do the great job they're doing in the community."

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Jack added that his ties to the team has lead to unwavering mutual support, even as his career has progressed.

"I've got fond memories of the club, had some great years there," he said. "We were pleased that we could do a little bit ourselves to help Shefford Saints; obviously it was just a donation, but we also offered to lend the club some equipment in the meantime while they're getting new stuff together.

"They've been great to me with my soccer school, and to a lot of the Shefford Saints kids there and at the holiday camps.

"There are great links there and it's such a wonderful club, so for me it's great to see them back on their feet straight away. Great to see everyone chipping in, and great to see football uniting and bringing everyone together in the community for such a wonderful cause."

Saints' vice chair Stewart Knight echoed Jack's sentiments, and said: "There's been an amazing outpouring of help and donations, it's been overwhelming."

Training sessions immediately after the fire, as well as the weekly Saturday fixtures, went ahead without a hitch, with players and coaches alike mucking in and bringing corner flags, cones and training poles.

"Nothing was going to stop training and football, that's for sure! A little fire isn't going to stop us, absolutely!" Stewart added.

"Its not just us here in Shefford [supporting the club], word of mouth has spread to other areas and parts of the country, and they've donated.

Alluding to the turmoil that the proposed European Super League has had on the world of football since it was announced on Sunday evening, Stewart added: "Certainly with what's happening in football in the last 48 hours shows you the strength of the football community all over, not only the region but elsewhere as well. It shows you what strong a hold football does have."

To support Shefford Sports Club and Shefford Saints' GoFundMe, click here.