Photos by Riccardo Raspa
Text by Megan Slade
The English Prison Service Football Association has played for many years, with competitions going back beginning of the last century. It was in 1975 that the idea of a national representative side arose and Alex Scott was appointed Captain for the first international against the “Auld Enemy”.
The match duly took place north of the border with England emerging as victors .The national team then went from strength to strength with regular fixtures against Oxford and Cambridge Universities, the Army, Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. It was felt that the national side would benefit from having some feeder sides, so in time four regional sides were establishment.
The coach of the English team, Michael Hayde, informs us, “The main reason for the team’s formation would be promote good relations between similar forces/services as ourselves, to raise the profile of the prison service in a positive manner. Our job is very challenging not least because of its day to day duties dealing with some of the most dangerous and violent offenders in the country but also because we are going through a massive change with regards to reduced staffing levels and changes in pay and pensions.”
Regardless of society’s view of the association’s profession, Michael continues to support the association by boosting morale, “As a manager my aim is to make our organisation as professional as I can with regards to not only how we perform but also in the preparation and set up as a whole. I feel this is massively important because it will in turn have the knock on effect of promoting the Prison Service in a positive manner to the other clubs we come into contact with.”
Not only do the association want to improve the promotion of prison guards to the public, but also the team enables a common ground for the prisoners and officers to bond over, “From personal experience I have found that if a prisoner finds out what you are involved in and to what level it does make a difference to how they react and treat you. The response is generally a positive one and definitely improves relations.”
Despite being a national football team, little or rather hardly any press has been covered of the EPSFA, whether due to the nature of the profession this team is part of, or perhaps mainstream football leagues overshadow lesser known associations, they seem to go unnoticed. Nevertheless this has not affected the association, as rather than wishing to receive publicity like many mainstream football teams, it is clear this is more than a game for the players – it’s a coping mechanism, or rather a way to forget the harsh realities of life.
With this in mind, the future of the Association is hard to predict “I would hope we would still be competing and providing teams to play against army, navy, RAF etc It is getting harder to get teams but hopefully it won’t get to a stage where we no longer exist. It has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people for 40 years now. Long May it continue.”