First findings revealed from Twinning Project initiative

a football pitch from above

Academics from Loughborough University have devised six pillars of success for partners involved in the nationwide Twinning Project – an initiative developed to help UK prisoners develop new skills.

a soccer ball

The key findings were shared at a ‘knowledge exchange’ event at University Stadium attended by key stakeholders and representatives from the various clubs involved. Dr Christopher Kay (Criminology and Social Policy) and Dr Carolynne Mason (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences) delivered best-practice themes.

Launched in 2018 and supported by the Ministry of Justice and the UK’s leading football bodies, the Twinning Project enables professional football clubs - supported by physical education officers from the Prison Service - to deliver coaching, refereeing and other employability-based qualifications to individuals serving custodial sentences.

Loughborough researchers were appointed to analyse the implementation of the project, measuring its short and long-term impact.

The themes included:

Sport as a ‘hook’ for change

Sport acts as the vehicle for soft skill development and provides opportunities for change. Such skills are developed alongside consistent and reliable delivery; therefore, consistency is key.

Maximising engagement

The extent to which the desired outcomes can be achieved will be influenced by the extent to which participants engage in the Twinning Project. Successful project engagement can be influenced by:

  • Levels of trust in the delivery staff
  • Approaches that encourage success and failure
  • The enjoyment factor, building relationships over time and not expecting full engagement from the outset
  • Effective group dynamics where all those involved believe they can contribute

The realities of prison life

Consider that the prison environment is constantly changing and making things happen requires patience and effective communication. Prisoners will also have diverse and unique needs that may impact their ability to engage in the Twinning Project.

Delivery approaches

The specific model that works will vary between prisons. Making the first iteration a success is important and communication with the prison can help with this.

Relationships matter

The working relationship with the prison can make or break delivery. Strong working relationships between clubs, prisons and Prison Officers aid successful delivery with regular communication vital.

Course end, not the end

  • End of course celebrations and post-release work are important
  • Employability programmes and the use of mentors (both pre and post-release) can support the transition back into the community
  • Keeping in contact pre and post-release is vital

To date, 46 Premier League and EFL football clubs have agreed to engage in the project. The full findings are expected to be released between 2023-2025.