Football landscape 1024x576 - Prisoner Training & Placements


The ball is in the centre

The ball is in the net

Poor young football star is lying in the wet

Guess how many former professional footballers have attended LandWorks on a placement?

The answer is… 7 (4.5% of all placements) and some of the clubs have been Man Utd, Bournemouth and of course Plymouth Argyle. My football chat has had to improve dramatically, interestingly alongside increasing my knowledge of HM armed forces – although we have had only slightly more ex-service people than footballers, 9 or 6% of placements.

These talented young sportsmen were living the dream, picked up in their early teens by a ‘scout’ and signed up by a big club. They gave up school, made it to the first team and then disaster… a catastrophic injury (nearly always the knees).

They are then kicked out by the club in their late teens.

Quickly life falls apart, drink and drugs replace the adrenalin rush of the beautiful game, lack of education impedes employment and oops, suddenly they are in trouble.

Next, they’re having to listen to me reminiscing about Alex Ferguson (I accept this opens a whole different debate about ‘is LandWorks punishment or rehabilitation’, but that’s for another day!).

What I find interesting is that simple statistics get people’s attention.

Data tells us loads of things; theories develop for understanding complex lives, straightforward risk indicators, black and white. So, it becomes easy, even a lazy way, to make quick decisions on.

We know that our ex-centre forward is seen at a certain risk level. I can look at our scoring on his mental health or his score from 1 to 5 on drugs, alcohol, relationships and so on.

But numerical measurement and probability does not effectively inform us about the person or provide reliable outcomes, if it did, we would all have won the Pools a long time ago!

Criminal justice needs to move away from the short term, seemingly easy game of over reliance on numerical indicators.

The danger is we only see the footballer that failed, rather than the human that could yet be someone.

“Football eh, bloody hell”. Sir Alex Ferguson


4th November 2021