FOOTBALL club bosses have been left incredulous after callous thieves smashed their way into the ground before stealing a defibrillator.

Crooks broke into the hospitality area at FC Clacton’s Austin Arena, in Rush Green Road, Clacton, overnight on Saturday.

They made off with a defibrillator, which will cost the club more than £1,000 to replace.

FC Clacton owner Stephen Andrews said: “They got in by smashing the window into the hospitality area.

“I’m pretty sure they didn’t deliberately take a defibrillator and, in the dark, just thought it was electrical equipment they could sell for easy money.

“We deliberately don’t keep anything in there, but didn’t think someone would take a defibrillator.

“Once they realise what it is they’ll probably dump it somewhere. We will now have to find another one.

“It is vital equipment and we wouldn’t have a game without it.

“We intentionally keep it in there - where all the managers know where it is - rather than locked in a car, in case it is needed.”

Mr Andrews said it is not thought that anything else was taken during the raid.

The club’s first-team manager Tom Austin added: “What kind of person would steal a defibrillator?

“God forbid something happens, but this is an essential piece of life-saving kit for everyone that uses our ground.

“It’s not just the first team – it’s the reserves, the veterans and all the youth teams on a Sunday morning.

“Then there are all the opposition teams, officials and supporters.

“It’s vital to have and for some low-life to steal it, and deprive our club, is disgusting.”

The importance of defibrillators at sporting venues was highlighted following the death of young footballer Jack Atkinson.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

  • Jack Atkinson

The 18-year-old, from Clacton, collapsed on the pitch after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing for Holland FC Under-18s in 2016.

The popular defender and Spurs fan, described by friends as a “gentle giant”, later died in hospital.

Jack’s great aunt Michelle Hinchliffe has appealed for those who took FC Clacton’s defibrillator to return it.

“I think its disgusting that someone would take such vital equipment,” she said.

“A defibrillator probably wouldn’t have saved Jack’s life, but it might have done - you never know.

“It’s not the sort of thing they could sell, so I hope they will return it somehow.”

Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to call the club or the police on 101.