A FOOTBALL club has been left 'picking up the pieces' after its former chairman repeatedly dumped and burned waste on its land.

Jayson Lyon, of Milton, near Abingdon, admitted before magistrates in December running an illegal waste operation at Abingdon Town Football Club.

Read our original story about the club's financial issues

The 33-year old, who also pleaded guilty to three counts of allowing the burning of rubbish at the Culham Road site, was sentenced to a six-month jail term, suspended for 12 months at Oxford Magistrates' Court last week.

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Secretary Brian Kirk, who now jointly runs Abingdon Town with new chairman Joe Bailey and vice chairman Dee Wilkins, said: "We had no idea what was going on, everything was tightly controlled by Jayson, and we have been left to pick up the pieces.

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"It was left to us to sort clearing the land, which is now mostly done, and it has been a real struggle to save the club from folding."

The 148-year-old club was on the brink of collapse before Christmas, Mr Bailey warning if it did not find the money to refurbish its kitchens and bar it would be forced to shut by the end of February.

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When Mr Lyon, who stepped down as chairman in October, first took the reins at the club, he had pledged to invest £250,000 on refurbishing and cleaning the ground as well as replacing one of the walls which runs adjacent to the pitch.

Additional land had also been leased for six new pitches to aid Mr Lyon's ambition to see the club climb to the non-league’s top tier, but no visible changes were ever made to the land.

The case against Mr Lyon was brought by South Oxfordshire District Council following an investigation by it environmental protection team.

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In August 2017 an officer from the authority witnessed two fires burning at the Abbott's Culham Road home.

They met Mr Lyon at the site and discovered that while he was the chairman of the football club, he leased the land from others who had not given permission for waste to be stored on the land nor for the disposal of the waste on the land.

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He was told by the officer that he should not be burning waste on the site but further visits showed a vast amount of waste was being stored on the club land – including gas bottles and cannisters, some of which came from JT’s Cocktail bar in Oxford, AHC Autos of Littlemore and the Three Horseshoes pub in Garsington.

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Mr Lyon was linked to all three businesses.

In September 2018 another officer of the council’s environmental protection team witnessed dark smoke coming from the far side of the club grounds but was not allowed onto the site.

District Judge Rana heard that Mr Lyon had since lost all of his businesses and he was voluntarily made bankrupt but was now working as a general manager.

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In sentencing, the District Judge said the former chairman had abused his position.

Liz Hayden, head of the district council's housing and environment service, said: “This is the first time that the council has laid charges in respect of operating a regulated facility.

"We hope this case will serve as a deterrent to others thinking they can set up their own waste disposal service without following proper procedures.”

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Mr Kirk said club bosses were now looking to put the problems associated with Mr Lyon behind them and were focused on opening refurbished kitchen facilities this month, which will provide a much-needed source of income to the club.

He added: "I am in some ways amazed we have been able to keep the club going but there is has been so much support from the community and I think people understand we are not responsible for what happened."