BOSSES at Livingston FC fear a major suspicious fire at their Almondvale Stadium could mean thousands of seats remain closed to supporters when the new season gets under way.
The blaze damaged entrance turnstiles at the south stand of the 10,000-capacity stadium when it broke out in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Electronic counting and monitoring systems, as well as fibreglass installations, were destroyed in an attack that will cost the club thousands of pounds.
Club managers said that, if the turnstiles could not be repaired quickly, around 2000 south stand seats normally reserved for schools, youth teams and other community groups could close temporarily, meaning supporters are shut out of games as the new season of the Scottish League’s First Division begins on August 18.
Any alternative routes of access to the stand would have to be approved by police and the club’s safety officers.
Detectives at Lothian and Borders Police confirmed they were treating the blaze as suspicious and said an investigation was ongoing.
Livingston FC chief executive, Ged Nixon, said: “We have had a fire which appears to have been deliberately started at around 3am, and it has burned down three turnstiles. There has been quite a bit of damage.
“It could impact on us going forward because those turnstiles serve a specific part of the south stand. We will need to work round the clock to try and get those operational before the start of the season.
“The police and the safety officer need to decide if another set of turnstiles on the corner of the south and east stands can be used. If those can’t, then those parts of the stadium normally used by schools and community groups could be closed.”
He added: “This [fire] has come completely out of the blue. We have not had any break-ins at the club or anything like that since [chairman] Gordon McDougall and I took over three years ago.”
Youth team leaders said youngsters would be hugely disappointed if they were unable to see Livingston FC in action at the beginning of the season but added they were confident a situation in which fans were shut out of games could be avoided.
Paul Smith, coach at Livingston FC Boys Club, which buys community tickets for some of its members, said: “I would expect that, even with a stand missing, they would still be able to give us tickets at the normal rate because the crowds at the ground are substantial enough.
“The players would be disappointed if they couldn’t get in but I don’t think it will come to that.”
A police spokeswoman said: “Lothian and Borders Police are investigating a suspicious fire at Almondvale Stadium, Livingston, which started around 3.20am on Monday.” Anyone with information should call Lothian and Borders Police on 0131-311 3131.