Wales’s only prison football team have successfully overturned a decision to kick them out of a Sunday league.
HMP Prescoed FC – which once included professional footballer Chris Zebroski – have fielded a team from the prison for over two decades.
Each of their games has to be played at home, and rival teams travel to the prison to play in the unique ground.
Located just outside Monmouthshire, HMP Prescoed is a category D prison with around 230 inmates – mainly made up of burglars, fraudsters and violent offenders.
Despite successfully competing in division two of the Gwent Central League for several years, league bosses were refusing to let the side re-enter this season citing “safeguarding” issues when teams visit their prison pitch.
The team have lost just once in the last three years and once topped the league with a difference of over 90 points.
Campaigners said that playing football helps prisoners to rehabilitate and teaches them important life skills such as teamwork and communication.
The team are required to adhere to the prison’s behavioural conditions to be selected.
After a campaign by former players as well as rehabilitation activists, league officials reconsidered the side’s request – and agreed the open prison side can take part.
A liaison officer will also be allocated to team visiting the prison to overcome “any potential safeguarding concerns” for opposing players.
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A Gwent league spokesman said: “The League can confirm its members have voted with an overall majority to accept the decision,” said Gwent league officials in a statement.
“We hope this concludes the matter and all sides can now focus on a return to action when government regulations allow.”
All games in the league competition are currently suspended due to coronavirus restrictions.
The initial decision to ban the club led to a 300 name petition in support of the inmates.
Author of 90 minutes of Freedom, Jamie Grundy said: “By participating in competitive football each week the players, all prisoners, are reintegrating into life after prison.
“Football helps reduce reoffending by supporting positive mental health, helps their social skills such as team working, communication or leadership skills, and it helps immeasurably to promote good behaviour.”
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk