BBC News

Wales' only prison football team banned from local league

By Jordan Davies
BBC News

media captionHow football can be "your first way to show you are rehabilitated"

For two decades, the Saturday kick-about has been special for one particular team - Wales' only prison side.

But now players from HMP Prescoed FC have been banned from competing in their local league.

The Gwent Central League has refused the entry for the first time in 20 years - citing concerns over young opponents entering prison grounds.

About 300 people have signed a petition calling for the prison team's re-entry.

The league has also said it is unfair that the prison football team - which has regularly won the competition - plays all its games at home due to restrictions on travel.

An appeal by HMP Prescoed FC, near Usk, Monmouthshire, is due to be held on Thursday.

For Chris Leslie, 37, and Gavin Etchell, 39, who both played for the team for a season, being a member of the squad was about more than just football.


Chris, now a director of a social enterprise company and studying for a psychology qualification, believes the decision not to allow the players back into the league could affect the "emotional and mental health" of some of the inmates.

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"It's something to look forward to on the weekend," he said.

"It's your first way to show you are rehabilitated. The prison officers are looking at how you interact with other people."

He said team members are held to a higher standard of behaviour than other inmates.

"For you to get in trouble you risk the entire team, you risk being kicked out of the league, so you're not going to do it. All the time I played I never [saw] a big incident," he added.

image captionFormer player Chris Leslie said the decision could be bad for inmates' mental health

Gavin, who now works as a personal trainer, said: "It's not just you you're letting down if anything happens, you're letting down the rest of the boys that are there.

"Yes they've made mistakes, but they should still have that opportunity."

Jamie Grundy, a former Manchester United community coach who spent a year researching HMP Prescoed FC for his book 90 Minutes of Freedom', said football is an "integral part of the life of the prison".

"The prison and the game is doing its job in terms of reducing reoffending and making sure that those individuals are highly unlikely to go back to prison," he said.

A league official said the team's application had been rejected by an "overall majority" for reasons of sporting integrity, welfare and safeguarding.

Related Topics

  • Usk
  • Wellbeing
  • Mental health

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