By TONY INCENZO
Phoenix 2 Hanworth Villa Veterans 1
at HM Prison & Young Offender Institution Feltham, Bedfont Road, Feltham, Middlesex TW13 4ND
Wednesday, December 21 2011
London Airport Midweek League Premier Division
Overview: The Holy Grail in my hobby of groundhopping is to visit somewhere that no other football fan has been to. This was the first (and hopefully the last) time I have ever been inside a prison. I received special permission by email to attend this fixture, but I was told not to bring a phone or a camera with me.
History: Phoenix FC are a team for members of the Young Offender Institution at Feltham. They play all their fixtures at home for obvious reasons. The original Feltham complex was built in 1854 as an industrial school. It was taken over in 1910 by the Prison Commissioners to become a borstal institution. The existing building opened as a remand centre in March 1988. The current HM Prison & Young Offender Institution Feltham was formed by the amalgamation of Ashford Remand Centre and Feltham Borstal in 1990/91.
Entry: I was asked to arrive in the main car park at 1.50pm along with the match referee and visiting players from Hanworth Villa Vets. The kick-off was originally scheduled for 2.30pm. We were met by members of the prison staff who brought us all in together…via an airport-style metal detector, a body search, numerous locked gates and along a path to the changing rooms. This process took 45 minutes. After the players and ref got changed, we were then escorted through more locked gates out to the playing area.
Ground description: Situated behind the imposing prison building, a high mesh fence with barbed wire on top surrounds the two football pitches and a rugby pitch. There were dug-outs along one touchline and I watched the match from there as the only spectator.
Programme details: No programme was issued, but I was handed an information leaflet about the prison on entering the visitors’ centre.
The match: It didn’t kick-off until 2.48pm due to the delays in getting into the prison. As the young offenders had to be back in their block by 4.30pm, the ref opted for two halves of 37 minutes with a five minute half-time. Phoenix played some good stuff with young, enthusiastic players bolstered by two muscular prison officers who filled the centre-back positions. There was a good spirit throughout with no dissent or swearing and very few fouls. Hanworth took the lead but Phoenix fought back to win 2-1.
Exit: After the match, the ref and Hanworth players showered and got changed. We were then escorted out of the prison together with the heavy gates slamming behind us.
Tony Incenzo is a regular contributor to the Queens Park Rangers programme and talkSPORT.
NEXT WEEK: Tony Hudd explains how a pen in Pyongyang [almost] blew his cover.