November 2nd 2018

A Blackwood man was left with a suspended prison sentence –  and good causes were left counting the cost – after he stole the money from an Aberdare 6 a side football league.

Matthew John Rowley, of Coronation Road in the town, was working as a referee for Leisure Leagues  at a number of their venues in South Wales during 2017 when he took the money.

He failed to attend his first court hearing earlier in the year, but the 45 year old pleaded guilty this week at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court, where he was sentenced to 12 week in prison – suspended for 12 months- as well being subjected to a Community Order which will see him carry out 150 hours community service and repay £878.00.

A Spokesman for Leisure Leagues said that the situation was “regrettable” and added: “Mr. Rowley – like all our referees across the world – was expected to bank the takings from the league within seven days. When he did not, we made strenuous efforts to contact him and resolve the situation, when those endeavours came to nothing; we had no choice but to take the regrettable step of informing the police. We are delighted that they found in our favour.”

Leisure Leagues operate hundreds of leagues worldwide and such examples of theft are mercifully rare. The spokesman added: “We have thousands of staff across the globe in places like America and Pakistan as well as our UK based operation and there are only a handful of cases where we have had to pursue a conviction through the courts. We look forward to that continuing and that vital relationship between us and our staff cannot – and will not – be jeopardised by the actions of people like Mr. Rowley. “

Leisure Leagues donates its profits to good causes and charities including The Dogs Trust and Cancer Research, as well as donating equipment to schools in all corners of Britain. It is this, said the Spokesman, which leaves a particular sour taste. “Mr. Rowley understood our community ethos – all our staff do – and in stealing this money, he was really stealing from the charities and the vulnerable in his own community. We look forward to donating this money as soon as we can.”

Information on Leisure Leagues’ referee scheme can be found here:

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