Freethorpe football fanatic honoured at House of Lords

Community football stalwart Stephen Smith joined household names from the world of sport last week,

Community football stalwart Stephen Smith joined household names from the world of sport last week, when he was recognised for his commitment to Freethorpe Village Hall and Football Club. Stephen (pictured) with the Premier League cup. - Credit: Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures

A community football stalwart joined household names from the world of sport last week, when he was recognised for his commitment to Freethorpe Village Hall and Football Club.

Stephen Smith has been volunteering at the club for almost half a century, having taken on most of the roles over this time. Today he acts as club secretary but still finds time to mark out the football pitches for training and matches.

Mr Smith's contribution was marked last Wednesday, at a reception at the House of Lords, where he was recognised as a community champion by Barclays Spaces for Sports and the Football Foundation.

As a community champion, Stephen is one of hundreds of people, over half of which are volunteers, who make a particularly outstanding contribution to their local Barclays Spaces for Sports facility.

Freethorpe Village Hall and Football Club is one of these Barclays Spaces for Sports, and is run entirely by volunteers. Not only is the site open for anyone to use regardless of age, gender or ability but is regularly used by local schools. The football club itself was the first FA Charter Standard club in Norfolk and hosted the first futsal league in the county.

Mr Smith, 59, said: 'As club secretary and volunteer groundsman of the football club that uses the village hall playing fields, I have really been aware of the impact that Barclay's Spaces for Sports and the Football Foundation have had here.

'The construction of a Barclay's Spaces for Sports-funded multi use games area and a Football Foundation-funded community pavilion have been major upgrades to our previous facilities and provided the catalyst for development of the football club. It's very pleasing to see our hard work recognised. Many different activities take place at the site and we have seen a real upswing in participants.'

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Paulette Cohen, Director, Global Programmes at Barclays, said: 'Since 2004 Barclays Spaces for Sports has been engaging young people in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the country and it is wonderful that Stephen, just one of the hundreds of people who help run our facilities, is being recognised for their hard work.'

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of The Football Foundation, added: 'The programme would not work without the volunteers who manage and run the facilities that have been funded. Stephen is the embodiment of the many volunteers who work at Barclays Spaces for Sports sites, ensuring that their communities have access to quality sports facilities, and is thoroughly deserving of the accolade of Community Champion.'