Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From the Archives - The Fire at the Sportsmans Club

Every time one drives or walks into the Merton Meadow car park from Blackfriars Street, you pass the Hereford United Sportsmans Club which has been in ruins since it was badly damaged by fire in October 1995.

The club was built in 1973/74 at a cost of £200,000. It was officially opened by Joe Mercer in a special ceremony in 1974.

And for the next 21 years it became a much loved part of Edgar Street.

Until October 2nd 1995.

The fire was believed to have been arson and some months later a man from Plymouth did face charges. However there were many who thought that others might have been involved.

Here's a report from the time.

Football club bosses last night pledged to play on despite an arson attack which caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage at Hereford United's Edgar Street ground.

More than 100 firefighters tackled the blaze at its peak in the early hours yesterday.

The Third Division club is now in a race against time to make the ground safe for its game against Torquay United on Saturday.

Structural engineers have been called in to assess any damage to the main stand and the Football League will have to be satisfied with the safety of the ground before the game can go ahead.

The blaze started shortly after midnight on Sunday and gutted the Sportsman's Social Club and then swept into the second floor Starlite Rooms above.

Severe damage was caused to offices and the bootroom with footballs distorted out of shape by the heat.

Police believe an accelerant was used to start the fire.

The club will have to assess damage to the electrical systems, computers, phones, security TV, public address systems, photocopiers and other machines.

Arsonists are believed to have struck at the club last Tuesday but petrol poured through a door failed to set it alight.

Managing director Robin Fry, dressed in a tracksuit as he cleaned up said "We have had two years of vandalism - this is the ulitimate."

But he reassured fans everything would be done to make the ground useable for Saturday.

Director and club secretary David Vaughan stressed "The main business of football goes on.

"Assuming the fire was started deliberately I fail to understand the mentality of people who do that sort of thing."

To add to the problem of the fire it was later revealed that there had been problems with the insurance.

Back to the present and current Hereford United chairman David Keyte would like to see the club rebuilt. But that's not on the top of his agenda so the eyesore will remain much the same as it has for the past fifteen years.

Bulls News would like to thank Ron Parrott for his help with this article.