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The Twinning Project: How Aston Villa are making a difference in prison

Premier League football club Aston Villa have highlighted the value of Leadership and teamwork by collaborating with HMP Birmingham to support a cohort of men who are approaching release back into the community.

The Twinning Project is a group intervention with both the men in custody and Aston Villa qualified sports tutors. The aim is to provide employability and leadership skills through the power of football coaching.

And so far the initiative has been a roaring success with perhaps the greatest example coming from one man, who gave it the ultimate testimonial: “Aston Villa Foundation has saved my life and my mental health….thank you”.

Foundation and Community Manager Ross Alexander explained the tireless work his team does to give back in the Midlands, saying: “We have 70 staff delivering a variety of activities from Football in the Community to our interventions team and our targeted one-to-one work.

“This project came about from an article on the Alliance of Sport website. David Dein (Premier League Ambassador) had seen it working in another country and set up The Twinning Project. It is still evolving because it is so new.

“The concept is to develop people in custody that show a thirst for change to help gain a leadership qualification that can support them upon their release. The program is bespoke and tailored to ignite confidence and self-esteem to improve their employability skills using the power of football and coaching combined. The idea behind this concept is to support residents upon early release and that they feel confident in applying for jobs in the Community. That could be with The Foundation or elsewhere.”

Aston Villa Foundation HMP Birmingham

Villa’s Workforce Development Manager Corinne Mitchell said “the results so far are highly encouraging, and the aim is to build a legacy with Birmingham HMP where inmates become mentors and learnings are continually passed on in the future. That involves picking two or three coaching mentors from the  group who will eventually in time be able to lead the next cohort of inmates that we would look to develop.

“We worked heavily with the PE department in the prison to identify places for the programme which were those that were set for early release – ones with minor crimes and ones that we can work with on the outside. That way we can build a relationship with the young people outside of prison and find them a job on the outside,” she said. “We installed a simple application form for entry and had a huge response, the idea behind this was to gain understanding of the inmate and what they want to achieve in life.

“The success of the programme has led to the group improving behaviors on their wings and an inmate obtaining an early release thanks to our course, which is a great success story for us.

“We completed some case studies and 100% of the group all came away with increased self-esteem, especially when it came down to delivering in front of their peers – something many of the young people tended to struggle with.

“We had one individual who was experiencing acute suicidal ideations with an active plan of ending his own life, however since completing the programme he now feels as if he has a purpose and a positive outlook on life and wants to contribute his experiences and new set of skills to the wider community.

Bradley Williamson, PE Officer at HMP Birmingham, says the project has been a big hit inside the prison and there is a long queue of residents eager to get involved on the next programme.

“The difference in behaviour from the residents at Birmingham HMP has been breathtaking for those who took part in this programme. The coaches at Aston Villa Foundation are role models for these inmates and treat them no different to those who they work with in the community.

“We can’t wait to have a second cohort as the news around Birmingham HMP about Aston Villa Foundation has reflected positively. The Twinning Project was a huge success and now we have a waiting list of 60 residents desperately wanting to join the next course.”

Aston Villa Foundation HMP Birmingham















The Twinning Project – Testimonials

“Aston Villa Foundation has given me opportunity to believe in myself again and build confidence for my release to be able to re start my life again.”

 ‘Aston Villa Foundation has saved my life and my mental health….thank you.”

 “I’ve learnt so much from the coaches at Aston Villa Foundation, it’s a brilliant education programme not just for football but to build leadership and employability skills, The Twinning Project has sparked our hopes and dreams.”