FIREBUGS are being blamed for a blaze which gutted the former home of Runcorn FC.
The fire, which could be seen up to two miles away, was started early on Tuesday evening at The Linnets club on Canal Street.
Four crews from Runcorn and Widnes fought for more than two hours to bring the blaze under control.
Three hand-held jets and a monitor were used to calm the flames before firefighters wearing breathing apparatus went inside the single-storey building to extract some of the smoke. By 8.30pm the pumps were reduced to two and remaining crews dampened down the embers.
The Canal Street social club had been empty since the side were forced to move home at the end of last season.
Planning permission for a housing development on the site was granted and the football ground and club were gradually cleared out.
However since Runcorn FC left the area to play at the Auto Quest Stadium in Widnes, the club has been plagued by vandals.
Leading firefighter Ken Sharratt said: 'The fire was maliciously ignited and there were reports of two boys in the area at the time.
'Before the fire we had been working with Halton Borough Council to secure the building.
'We were involved in community fire safety work in the area after there were reports of young people using the building as an adventure playground.'