YOUNG footballers returned to school this week to find vandals armed with fireworks had torched their state-of-the-art pitches.
Youths set off rockets on the 3G artificial pitches at Portobello High School and bent a goalpost – causing more than £10,000 of damage.
Sports club officials are now calling for gates left open so the pitches are available for community use to be locked at night.
“It’s going to cost at least £10,000 to repair but I’ve heard it could be more,” said Tom Gallagher, chair of Cavalry Park Sports Club.
“It’s just senseless youngsters and the worst part of it is, it’s not even November 5 so you’d expect more.
“They go in at night and no one can stop them. They’re drinking, taking drugs and riding bikes around.”
The club’s under 16s and under 19s normally train on the pitches but have now had to switch to Cavalry Park.
“It’s a wonderful facility,” said Mr Gallagher. “But it’s just going to get worse unless the council takes action. There’s been damage before. What we’re looking for is community access during the day but then from 10pm the place closed.”
Vandals set off fireworks leaving several scorched patches on both pitches. They also bent at least one goal post and ripped out the nets.
The pitches are less than a year old, opening with the rest of the 1,300-student school last November.
Councillor Ian Perry, Convener of Education, Children and Families for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “It is extremely disappointing to see this deliberate damage to our new 3G pitches at Portobello High School.
“We always envisaged allowing the facilities to be open outside school hours for the enjoyment of the whole community, allowing local people free access when they aren’t in use by the school or sports clubs.
“It is a real shame that it is the many responsible users who have to suffer disruption while we rectify the damage caused by a small few.
“We hope to tackle the root causes of such anti-social behaviour by continuing to work in partnership with the police, the school, Edinburgh Leisure and the local community.”
A police spokeswoman said: “Police in Edinburgh are continuing to investigate after fireworks caused damage to the astroturf of a football pitch in the Milton Road area at about 4.40pm on Wednesday, October 4.”
Anyone with information can contact police on 101, quoting 2413 of 4th October, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.