Last month we joined up with Surrey Women’s Rec teams Woking Diamonds and Merstham Ladies FC to visit HMP Downview in Banstead.
Representatives from Surrey FA, Woking Diamonds and Merstham Ladies FC were invited to the prison to participate in a recreational tournament with the inmates.
The session followed on from the work of the Twinning Project, which aims to bring together professional football clubs and prisons across the UK, using football as a catalyst for change. The scheme seeks to deliver coaching, refereeing and employability-based qualifications to prisoners to better prepare themselves for release.
Following on from their coaching course, the women were given full ownership of the tournament and were responsible for organising the structure before participating in matches.
The morning consisted of discussions on the benefits of the game for individuals and explained why it is possible for anyone to get involved in football at any stage of life. The discussion was followed by a fun, competitive mini-tournament organised by the women of Downview. The morning allowed women from the prison to bring in the skills which they had learnt whilst being involved in the project.
Reflecting on the session, a spokesperson from the PE Department HMP/YOI Downview commented, “The ladies had a fantastic morning playing against teams from the outside community. It really bought into play the skills they had learnt whilst being involved with the Twinning Project.
Forming links with community teams, Surrey FA and the Twinning Project will give our ladies a real opportunity to re-integrate back into the community upon release. A big thank you to Emma Barnes and Chloe Longdon from Surrey FA along with Tom Hartley from Arsenal Women’s FC for assisting us in the community.”
Surrey FA’s Workforce Development Officer Chloe Longdon added, “We were delighted to have the opportunity to visit HMP Downview and demonstrate the power of football to bring people together. The session was well received by both the clubs in attendance and the women from the prison, and we look forward to returning later in the year.”
It wasn’t just the women of the prison who benefitted from the experience, but also the female recreational players who came to the prison and took part in the tournament.
Sarah Collett of Merstham Ladies FC said, “It was a unique experience which we all really enjoyed. Everyone was really engaging and it was great to see those who hadn’t played before enjoying it too! It demonstrated the positive benefits of playing football and showed exactly how it brings people together. It was good to be able to promote women’s rec football and to show exactly how far it has come and what opportunities are out there to play. It is something we would love to do again’’
Sarah Patrick of Woking Diamonds told Surrey FA, “It was a great morning and everyone made us feel welcome. It was great to see so many women interested in football and the fact it can bring together different ages, races and backgrounds is amazing and should be celebrated.”
Sarah herself is in the process of organising for her team to visit the prison again in February and we are looking forward to having the chance to go back to the prison ourselves later in the year.