DISAPPOINTMENT over defeat in a club’s first ever FA Cup appearance turned to shock and anger when exhausted players trooped off the pitch to find thieves had raided their dressing room.
Money and car keys were among items stolen from Newent AFC players at the Cribbs FC ground in Bristol.
And worse followed when midfielder Zac Blood discovered his BMW car had then been taken from the club’s Wildsmith Meadow locked car park 40 miles away.
Luckily, police spotted the car in the Cribbs Causeway area later that night and recovered the vehicle and arrested a man and a teenager.
But now the Daffs have organised a £2,000 online fundraising appeal to help cover the damage to Zac’s car, the £170 cost of releasing it from the police compound, and to replace an air pod stolen from team-mate Luke Hawkins.
Zac’s family discovered the club gates forced open and the car missing when they went to the Newent ground with a spare key after the players discovered the dressing room break-in at the end of the Tuesday, September 1, FA Cup clash.
The car suffered at least £600 worth of damage when the thieves scraped the sides driving it out of a narrow gap from the car park.
As well as the thefts, and the cost of reclaiming the car, which he will now have to pursue a refund for from Avon and Somerset Police, Zac was furious with Cribbs FC for online comments about the incident.
He claimed Cribbs manager Rich Luffman had “rubbed salt into the wound” by suggesting the thieves were “unlikely” to be someone local and that Newent should be “looking closer to home”.
He also claimed a Cribbs player had sarcastically wished them “good luck in the next round of the FA Cup” and later posted “hope you enjoyed your big day”.
Zac said: “The away dressing room has no CCTV, it is the only place that doesn’t and if something goes missing the club does nothing whatsoever to recover your property or even help you put it out on social media.
“Surely you’d at least do that out of decency. Instead they chose to mock us.
“The main thing I want to do now is warn people not to leave valuables anywhere there, keep them with you at all times, take a bag with you to the bench or whatever.
“I don’t want it happening to someone else. What’s done is done, I can’t change it and the best course of action is to get the word out to try to prevent anything like this happening again.”
Mr Luffman said they had advised before the match that no valuables should be left in the dressing room, but apologised “for the tweets being misread”.
“We just felt that the finger had been pointed at us as a club when we had done everything we could to make it a good evening for Newent and put on the best hospitality despite Covid regulations.
“We are pleased the car has been found, that’s the most important thing, and we wish everyone at Newent the very best.”
Following the discovery of the thefts, Newent Town AFC posted: “Gutted for the result tonight but more gutted that the lads had their belongings go missing from our changing room @CribbsFC including money and car keys, etc.
“Now we find out the thieves have driven to Newent to rob our player’s car. Be aware anyone playing there this year!”
An Avon and Somerset Police spokesperson said: “We were called at approximately 10.20pm last night (September 1) about a set of car keys for a black BMW being stolen from changing rooms at sports ground in the Henbury area.
“The vehicle had been left in the Newent area of Gloucestershire, but a BMW matching that description and a white Transit van were spotted by a member of the public in the Cribbs Causeway area at about 12.20am this morning (September 2).
“Officers subsequently attended and established the car had been stolen. Two males, aged 17 and 37, have been arrested on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle. Enquiries are continuing.”
Police have asked anyone with information about the theft to contact them on their website or call 101 and provide the reference number 5220198458.
Zac said he was originally told the police were impounding the car to forensically examine it, but they then said they didn’t have the resources to do that and he would have to pay a £170 release fee.
He fears no one will now be charged with the offence, and added: “There was no need for it to be held, I could have grabbed it the night they found it.
“I now have to write a letter of complaint to Avon and Somerset Police to try to claim back the fee – it just keeps getting better and better.”
Meanwhile, Newent Town AFC assistant manager Mark Cook has launched a £2,000 appeal to help recoup some of the loss.
He said: “If anyone can help with this we would be so grateful.
“Although caught red handed, the thieves are going to get away with taking and damaging Zac’s car which means he’ll have to pay for the damage.
“On top of that he had to pay to get the car from the police compound as well.”