AN entrepreneur has given a town-wide sports partnership a boost by agreeing to become its patron.
Millionaire property developer and ex-Newcastle United chairman Sir John Hall is the new patron of Hartlepool Sporting Association (HSA).
Sir John was unveiled as the organisation’s newest supporter during an “Evening with”-style event at Hartlepool College of Further Education.
During the event, attended by around 120 people, including representatives from the 14 sports group members of the association, the 78-year-old entertained the audience with tales of his life and how he made it in business, from growing up in North Seaton, near Ashington, to building the MetroCentre and taking over at Newcastle United.
He described how sportsmanship goes hand in hand with success, and drew comparisons between HSA and how he tried to set up his own sporting association at the-then St James’ Park.
Sir John, who signed the college’s visitors’ book, said: “I’m delighted to be patron and to help in whatever way I can.”
He added: “It’s this involvement in the community which brings us more and more together.
“To look at the clubs here, to see your history, you have done something right to carry clubs 100 to 150 years. It is remarkable.
“Most of them fold after a short period of time, so you have got to be applauded for that.
“To bring us all together in this magnificent building, you ought to be praised for everything you are trying to do.”
He paid tribute to the town’s “endeavour, enterprise and initiative” and told students: “If I can do this, then there’s nothing you kids out there can’t do.
“Education is the backbone of your association, sport will come and go and you will move on.
“You need education.”
The charismatic tycoon revealed he was looking at opening up 7km of woodland at his Wynyard Hall home that could be used for a “Wynyard Run”, in which town clubs could participate.
Shaun Hope, HSA’s head of sports development, described Sir John’s patronage as an added bonus to HSA’s continuing triumphs, which he said will gain momentum in the Olympic year.
College principal and chief executive Michael Bretherick added: “After two years of operation HSA has proved itself to be an association with roots in the community and with real achievement under its belt.
“But getting Sir John in as patron now gives us renewed vigour, aspiration, ambition and belief and I think he demonstrated that absolutely perfectly.”
Sir John’s visit to the new £53m Stockton Street-based college comes just two weeks after the Duke of York, HRH Prince Andrew, officially opened the site.
HSA has 14 members of community sports clubs and one associate member, Hartlepool United. It is a support network which aims to achieve education and health through sport and improve sports performance, governance and development.
Among those represented at the event were Hartlepool Tennis Club, Oaksway Netball Club, Hartlepool Swimming Club, Hartlepool Gymnastics Club, Hartlepool Rovers Rugby Club, Hartlepool Rugby Club, Hartlepool St Francis 2000 Football Club, Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers and Hartlepool Heat.