VANDALS have caused thousands of pounds of damage to expensive equipment at the Dell Stadium, disrupting the training of the borough's top budding athletes.

Over the last few months the outdoor stadium in Bryce Road has had hurdles smashed and the netting to the throwing cage ripped.

But in the most recent attack, which took place on May 30, vandals damaged the high jump crash mat by dragging it on to the running track and setting it on fire.

The blaze not only destroyed the plasticcoated mat, but also set alight the rubber track bed, causing damage to four of the outside lanes of the “home straight” sprinting section.

It is thought the repair bill for the latest bout of vandalism could cost around £5,000, but council officers are still assessing the full extent of the damage.

The council-run stadium is home to a number of competitive sports clubs which regularly use the facilities for training, with many having to rearrange their schedules and find alternative temporary accommodation while officers begin investigating and repairing the damage.

Borough athletics club Dudley and Stourbridge Harriers meet twice a week at the Dell and were told of the damage when they arrived for training on May 31.

Club parent, volunteer Alison Ashfield, whose two sons Alex and Reece are both club runners, said: “It is sad some people have to come and spoil things for others.

“And it is frustrating, because what can we do about it – and how can we get it to stop?”

“This latest vandalism doesn't just affect the runners, because of health and safety we can't use that side of the track, so those athletes have to train somewhere else, which then disrupts the others.”

Secretary Barbara Shepherd said her time was now being taken up trying to find suitable temporary training venues for their young members.

She said: “It is as upsetting for us as it is for the members.

“All they want to do is turn up and train their very best, but they can't do that properly if they don't have the facilities to use.

“We have over 150 members, aged from nine years old to seniors, and we don't like having to move them across the area for training.

“The athletics season starts in about May and runs to September, so it is a very short season, so when things go pear-shaped it really does put us out and upset the bandwagon.”

West Midlands Police are investigating the vandalism and sector inspector Gary Malpass has promised extra high-visibility patrols in the area to prevent a reoccurrence.

Councillor David Stanley, cabinet member for environment and culture, said: “I'm disappointed and appalled by the vandalism at the Dell Stadium.

“The council is committed to investing in these wonderful facilities, which are used by local people, and will continue to work with the police and local community to protect them.”