The Irish Prison Service has spent over €40,000-a-year on footballs, extraordinary new figures have revealed.
The Examiner newspaper used the country's Freedom of Information Act to uncover government documents that showed €127,000 (£103,687) was spent on footballs over the last three years with razor wire being blamed for the high expense.
Denis Naughten, an Independent member of the Irish parliament, raised the issue in a parliamentary question last year saying: "An astronomical sum, over €42,000, is being spent every year on footballs. Surely with all the great minds we have in this country someone can come up with a solution. Surely sharp minds could design a netting to protect the balls from the razor wire."
The Freedom of Information documents revealed correspondence in response with the Irish Prison Service saying that the expensive was so high because "balls are continuously destroyed on the wire. Prison ensures adequate supplies of football are available as they don’t have many other recreational facilities."
A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service also said exercise was "incredibly important" for prisoners, and that the cost was justified.
"The costs seem high but there are a number of reasons for that," he said.
"The footballs are light to minimise potential injuries to staff and prisoners. This means they do tend to get destroyed.
"The bottom line is that we cannot put netting underneath the wire. Also netting a yard has significant cost implications.
"It costs about 175,000 euros and that is without support structures - the price could go up to 250,000 euros."
The footballers were used by some 4,000 Irish prisoners across 60 prison yards in Ireland.
The Examiner revealed: "The (Freedom of Information) correspondence said the vast majority of balls purchased were priced at €2 each, plus Vat (23%)."
"This would suggest that if only cheaper balls were bought that the €127,000 bill over the last three years would translate to roughly 51,600 balls."