More than a game

'Without Premier League investment, Wallsend wouldn't exist'

18 Feb 2024

Alan Shearer returns to the club of his childhood to see how it has grown thanks to funding from the League and Football Foundation

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Premier League Hall of Fame inductee Alan Shearer honed his skills at the famous Wallsend Boys Club on his native Tyneside and returned there recently to see how much has changed.

The club is 120 years old this year, founded in 1904 by the directors of the Swan Hunter Shipyard, to give the shipbuilding apprentices something positive to do in their leisure time, so they weren't involved in antisocial behaviour, and bringing the police to the shipyards on a Monday morning.

“I loved my time at a Wallsend Boys Club, not only for the football but for the actual growing up,” says Shearer. “I would have been 11 or 12 years of age, training on a Tuesday and on a Thursday.

More than a game - Shearer Wallsend photos

"There was an old wooden floor in the gym, which was a five-a-side court. So we used to split up and train and do the passing drills or having a little five-a-side match.”

Steve Dale, the Wallsend chairman, says the club, which has had other Premier League stars such as Peter Beardsley, Michael Carrick and Fraser Forster on the books, has become more than just a place to develop your football skills.

“Over the decades it's sort of evolved into the emphasis being on not just good sportspeople but good citizens,” Dale says. “Primarily the strap line of the club is ‘More than football’ to emphasise that.

“We couldn't have physically managed that without having a partner like the Premier League and the Football Foundation alongside.”

More than a game - Shearer Wallsend stand

Since 2006, the Football Foundation, which is funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government has provided more than £1.8m to Wallsend. This has allowed the club to have a clubhouse for the first time, allowing to be more than football by housing extracurricular sessions.

It has helped to install a 3G pitch and floodlights so that the 550 male and female players from 50 teams aged from four to 84, can play in all weathers and at all times.

Thanks to the Premier League, Wallsend also have a defibrillator, one of 2,000 potentially life-saving devices provided across England and Wales supplied and installed by the League.

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“Without the investment from the Premier League, this place wouldn't exist,” Shearer says. “It wouldn't happen.

“Look at the facilities here. Since 2006 it's about £1.8m this place has had and around £90m in particularly the North East has had from the Premier League. That is an incredible investment.”

Through the Football Foundation, the Premier League has co-funded £1.04bn of investment, providing more than 71,650 grants to improve grassroots sporting facilities and other projects to benefit the game throughout England.

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“Not everyone's lucky enough to be a professional footballer but everyone has to go on and be something and do something," Shearer says. "That's part of part of the ethos here at Wallsend that even if you don't make it, they want to try and make you a better person.”

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