A FOOTBALL team made up of inmates at HMP Prescoed has won a victory over the threat of being kicked out of a league after 20 years.

Players at HMP Prescoed FC have included burglars, fraudsters and violent offenders serving time in their 230-man prison - but say the football games help them rehabilitate into society.

League bosses were refusing to let the side re-enter Division Two of the Gwent Central League in South Wales citing "safeguarding" issues when teams visit their prison pitch.

The team near Usk has lost only once in three years - and a petition was launched to save the team at the Category D prison.


Campaigners say that playing football helps prisoners to rehabilitate and teaches them important life skills such as teamwork and communication.

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.

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 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."

The team lost just once in the last three years with their training taking place every Tuesday and games every Saturday.

Players have to follow the prison's behavioural conditions if they want to take part.

Mr Grundy spent a year with the team and wrote about the experience in his book 90 Minutes of Freedom.

But Mr Grundy, a former coach at Manchester United, says any opposition player under 18 can enter the prison if accompanied by an appropriate adult.

The accompanying adult can be a senior player or coach "as has happened each Saturday for 20 years previously."

He added that there had never been an issue with the prisoners having to play all their games at home.

He said: "The pitch is privately maintained so it is an optimum playing surface for both teams.

"It has been used for training purposes by English football league clubs, Valencia, the Wales national team, Ukraine and others."

Everton and Wales legend Neville Southall also backed the call to save the team.

Goalkeeper Southall said: "Football for HMP Prescoed FC is a living, breathing example of how sport can unite people as equals on the field of play.

"It has the power to transcend sport as a powerful agent of peace.

"Games of football between teams at Prescoed, and their league opposition, show us how we can appreciate and embrace our rivalries, while also treating each other with respect."