Maesteg rugby club's deliberate fire 'devastation'
Officials have said a deliberate fire has devastated one of Wales' oldest rugby clubs and have warned a stand may need to be pulled down.
Police are investigating Tuesday evening's blaze at Maesteg RFC which came after a recent refurbishment.
Chairman David Morgan said the fire had destroyed memorabilia and ruined electrics in the clubhouse while the stand's steelwork was damaged.
But he insisted the team's season would go ahead as planned.
Fire crews spent three hours tackling the flames which engulfed the first floor bar in the clubhouse and a stand.
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said they received numerous calls about the fire at around 17:00 BST, which was brought under control within an hour.
Police are to investigate the fire which was said to have been started deliberately.
Det Con Lee Duke of Bridgend CID said: "We are treating this as arson and want to hear from anyone who may have information or who saw anyone acting suspiciously in or near the rugby ground yesterday.
"Maesteg Rugby Club is an important part of the local community and the considerable damage to the club will be felt by many people."
Mr Morgan said he had managed to enter the clubhouse after fire crews had left and said he was greeted by "considerable damage".
He said the members' lounge was devastated on the first floor and there was water and smoke damage throughout the rest of the club.
The cellar was also damaged, along with some of the club memorabilia in the sponsors' lounge.
He added that he feared the stand may need to be pulled down because of damage to the steelwork.
But he said: "The playing side will go ahead. We will find a way of completing our fixtures and starting the season on time.
"The trading is our biggest concern. Finance from the bar is essential to pay rates and bills. It's going to be a major problem for us."
He added that other clubs in the area, including Maesteg Harlequins RFC and Maesteg Celtic RFC had offered to help with training facilities.
Ospreys Rugby said it would offer support in any way it could to a "proud club".
A spokesman said: "To lose their club house in this fashion is a devastating blow that will impact heavily not only on the rugby club and those actively involved, but on the wider community who utilise the facilities."
Maesteg mayor Ross Thomas said people would be disappointed and angry to hear the fire was suspected as deliberate.
He said the club, which has a "rich history" that dates back to the 1800s, was in the heart of the valley "both physically and metaphorically".
Mr Thomas, who is also Bridgend county councillor for Maesteg West, said he was at the scene of the fire five minutes after it started.
He said a supermarket next door had been cordoned off as a precaution as the fire engulfed the rugby clubhouse.
"There were flames pouring out of the building, smoke billowing from the roof and a large part of the stand was badly damaged and falling to pieces in front of people's eyes," he told BBC Radio Wales.
"People were basically watching a small part of history in Maesteg fall to pieces."