HEARTBROKEN children have slammed vandals who set fire to their football pitch.

The youngsters had been looking forward to a summer of sport at the popular astroturf football pitch in Cowan Park.

However, it has been padlocked shut until the schools return in a bid to prevent mindless yobs from causing further damage.

Bosses at Barrhead Youth Football Club (BYFC), which owns the pitch, took the decision to lock the gates after a series of incidents in which yobs torched sections of synthetic grass, damaged goalposts and left broken glass scattered around.

A number of parents have told how their children were deeply upset to be told the pitch would be out of bounds all summer.

Elaine Stewart, whose son Zach plays football there with his friends, spoke of her frustration.

She said: “There was an announcement on Facebook saying the club was closing it because there was too much mess and too much litter getting left.

“My son and his friends are 10 and 11. They’ve just been given a bit of freedom to go there and it’s a safe place. We let them go down in a group.

“I think it’s really quite unfair to close it for an entire summer.

“Kids these days have not got many places to go. They can play in the general park area but they get really muddy.

“The astro is just a safe place for them to go and play football.”

However, BYFC officials have insisted the temporary closure of the facility will help to ensure children’s safety.

Club chairman Graham Vance, who expressed his sympathies to frustrated kids and parents, told the Barrhead News: “The damage that’s getting caused is beyond economical repair.

“There’s constantly glass bottles getting broken on the pitch.

“We’ve had to replace goals and the pitch has been set on fire three times across the last six months.”

Graham is open and willing to the idea of employing a supervisor for the area over the summer but, for that, the club requires more income.

He said: “If I can get a coach from our club to open up the park during the day then it will be open but we can’t expect kids to go in there unsupervised.

“People are free to hire the park if they want – I’m more than happy for them to do that.

“I need an income to allow me to pay someone to supervise. We are trying our very best to create this opportunity for kids but we need to do it safely.”

BYFC is looking for volunteers to patrol the astroturf at Cowan Park.

For more information, contact Graham on 07493176662 or email barrheadyfc@hotmail.com