AN extraordinary €10,000 was spent last year on footballs for the soccer-mad population of Limerick Prison, it has emerged.
The Irish Prison Service was unable to argue with an estimate that a spend of €10,339 could buy you 700 typical balls in a shop – or more than two footballs per prisoner, per year.
The Prison Service suggested that balls are regularly burst after being hoofed on to the razor wire strung above the walls of the outdoor exercise yard.
But there was no explanation as to why almost twice as much money was spent on footballs at Limerick Prison in 2011 as in Mountjoy, which has almost twice as many prisoners.
“We don’t have a figure on how many balls were bought. It is the case that they play out in the yard where there are little soccer pitches marked out; they boot them up and they can get stuck on the razor wire. We do go through a lot of footballs,” the spokesman said.
“If a football bursts, they are replaced. Whether they are going through more balls down there because they play more football in Limerick or they end up in the razor wire quicker, we’d have to look into it.”
But one prison source said the number of balls bought could be even higher as those taking part in open-air kickabouts have to play with balls that don’t meet FIFA competition requirements.
“They have proper footballs and basketballs for the indoor games in the gym but the balls they use out in the yard aren’t the best. I don’t think Ronaldo would be happy with them. They are the light plastic yellow balls you might see on the beach. You’d get them in a pound shop. You’d be embarrassed to bring one home to your kid,” said the source, adding that some of the footballs might be being burst deliberately as prisoners are unhappy with the quality.
Details of the expenditure were revealed this week by Minister Alan Shatter in response to a parliamentary question from Denis Naughten TD.
They showed that the spend on footballs at Limerick Prison was €5,854 in 2010 and jumped to €10,339 last year.
A full version of this story was published in the Limerick Leader, print edition, dated July 28, 2012