NETBALL players have been subjected to merciless taunting from a baying mob of youths – including being driven at by mopeds and having glass bottles launched at them while they play matches.
Teenagers deliberately targeting weekly Tuesday league matches at Bransbury Park have made the lives of those playing a misery – with women now voting to ditch playing at the location after fears over their safety.
A snarling pack of 50 male and female teenagers, sometimes up to as many as 100, routinely hound games while smoking cannabis.
The catalogue of offences included making menacing threats to kill and injure innocent women, launching a range of missiles across the court, littering the playing surface and holding up games with their mopeds – causing them to be cancelled before they’ve finished on several occasions.
The beleaguered Portsmouth Netball Association, which has played at the site for more than 20 years, said it had tried everything to resolve the problem by lobbying authorities for help – with short term attempts to curb the problem proving of little value.
The association, which pays around £400 to Portsmouth City Council to play at the public location every week, has now said enough is enough.
Brian Weston, league secretary, said things came to a head on Tuesday: ‘They rode their mopeds across the court and refused to leave when asked. They were shouting vile abuse including “I’ll kill you” and “I’m not afraid to punch a woman”.
‘We’ve been there for 20 years and its never been so bad, though there has been problems there for a long time.
‘They deliberately target the games – they only appear when the games are about to start and then leave when they are finished.
‘On Tuesday someone could have been seriously hurt when they blindly threw glass bottles onto the court which could easily have hit someone on the head. It was just lucky it didn’t hit anyone.
‘They drive full pelt across the court on their mopeds. On one occasion, one of them did a wheel spin and burnt the surface so badly it was black and we had to cancel the game. It’s just a bit of fun to them. They enjoy taunting us. The smell of cannabis is unbelievable.’
The league, which sees up to 400 players and 24 teams compete a week, has now moved to Crookhorn College which will not have public access.
He added: ‘It’s a shame we have to leave the area after so many years but you have to put safety first. The council did try by sending a security guard down for a bit but after getting stick they soon left. The police have spoke to them but after they have gone they just start up again.’
Claire Buckland, 38, of Hamble, who plays in the league, said: ‘We’ve had eggs and dog poo thrown at us in the past but Tuesday was the worst I’ve seen.
‘To ride scooters across the court when there are 14 players on it is very dangerous, which is why the game was cancelled before it had finished. Someone could have been hurt from the glass bottles thrown at us.
‘It’s disappointing to be leaving after playing there for so many years. It is bad news for the community and the council. They will lose our money and won’t be able to fill the space. Some of the players who don’t drive will also lose out now as they won’t be able to get to the new location.’
Police said they are taking the incident seriously. A spokesperson said: ‘We would like to reassure the public that a plan has been put in place to tackle assaults, anti-social behaviour and nuisance across both Bransbury Park and Milton Park and increased patrols have been put in place.
‘We have also been in contact with our partners at the council regarding community wardens and CCTV.’
Anyone with information should call 101 quoting 44190175189.
Councillor Steve Pitt, deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘We're aware of this unacceptable behaviour and have increased community warden patrols in the area. The wardens and other teams in the council are working with police to deal with this issue.’
Residents meanwhile have said they’ve witnessed a variety of problems at he location for years. Keith Richards, 73, said: ‘You see groups of youths riding around on their scooters across the field with total disregard. There doesn’t seem like much you can do about it without any proper deterrent.’
Sam Stone, 30, of Stamshaw, said: ‘It is scary. something needs to be done. It's a worry when you are taking out your little ones.’
Another local, who did not wish to be named, added: ‘They drive their mopeds round just to annoy people. They leave so much litter down here too. The problem is getting out of control.
‘We used to have a drink problem down here but now alcohol is banned. Then there was a big problem with druggies, who you would see in the bushes. Now we have the young people causing mayhem.’