On the small island of Guernsey in the English Channel, something rather peculiar will occur this season.
When the Sunday Soccer League kicks off on the tiny island that’s just a stones throw away from Northern France, a team called Prison Lions FC will take to the field.
But only for home games.
In a novel approach to reward their prisoners for good behavior, Les Nicolles Prison has set up a soccer team that will be made up of current prisoners and prison officers who will play alongside each other every Sunday.
The 15-game season will see all of Prison Lions FC games played at home, for obvious reasons.
David White, physical educator at the Guernsey Prison, believes the prisoners can really benefit from the league — by the way Guernsey’s famous soccer son is Southampton and England legend Matthew Le Tissier — letting a team from the prison join.
“They’re really buzzing about it,” White said. “It’s a good vibe for the prison. They love their football and it’s their 90 minutes of freedom.”
One thing that could create a problem, numbers wise, for Prison Lions FC, is that most of their squad could be depleted at any time if paroles are granted and prisoners are released. But don’t worry, they’ve been given extra time by the league to sign players on if that happens.
As mentioned, prisoners who are the best behaved will be able to play and it is hoped that the team will help to create a bond between prisoners and the prison officers. But I can’t help but think some prisoners will not be happy if one of the guards doesn’t slot him through when he’s in a great position on the edge of the box…. But what can he say without losing his privileges for the next week?
What a bizarre situation. But hats off to Les Nicolles Prison for thinking outside the box.
One more thing, won’t the visiting players and referees be intimidated by the inmates, apparently not.
“If they misbehave, they’ve got more to lose than the people coming in from outside, ” said referee and league President Rod Hamon. “And to be honest, we get more stick from the players outside than from the prisoners.”
BONUS: For any of you out there who enjoy the good natured banter of legendary British comic Ronnie Barker, take in this delightful clip from the hit TV Series “Porridge” from the 1970s as inmates from “HMS Slade Prison” take on a cast of ‘celebrities’ in a hastily arranged match inside the prison. At one point a rallying call goes up from the soccer team of criminals, “Come on Slade… take no prisoners.” Classic.