Avid football fan and local MP John Leech is joining forces with Manchester FA to help bang the drum and support the area’s bid for the ‘City of Football’ mantle.
Manchester, Nottingham and Portsmouth have been shortlisted from 22 applications with the winner receiving £1.6million of National Lottery funding over two years.
The eventual victor will have to demonstrate solid standing commitment to uniting public, private and voluntary organisations.
“The overarching key message is Manchester is a footballing city, and is the footballing city at the moment,” Mr Leech, a lifelong Manchester City fan and striker for the Houses of Parliament football side, told MM.
Manchester is home to three-times European champions and 20-times league winners United as well as twice Premier League top dogs City, while Nottingham Forest were back-to-back European Cup winners in 1979/80 under Brian Clough and Notts County are the world’s oldest professional club.
Portsmouth have suffered financially of late but won the 2008 FA Cup.
Mr Leech hopes to table an Early Day Motion on his return to Parliament, with the belief that the city starts from a strong position given its proud football heritage.
An announcement is due in the autumn by Sport England.
The MP for Withington in south Manchester added he hoped to see the city become UK leaders “not just on the professional pitch but in the voluntary game and at the basement of the pyramid.”
One key aim of the bid is to provide excellent facilities and coaching to get more people – particularly those aged 14-25 years – playing all forms of the game.
Speaking at a recent community day, Mr Leech said: “We need to make sure that grassroots football gets the support it needs to grow and develop. I will be doing all I can to support Manchester’s bid.
“Manchester is the obvious choice. It is already a city of football with two of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“With the support of arguably currently the two most successful English teams, this adds a massive impetus to Manchester’s bid.”
Manchester FA chief executive Colin Bridgford said: “As the governing body of football in Greater Manchester our aim is to promote and govern the grassroots game.
“Manchester FA is delighted to get John’s support for our vision for the ‘City of Football’.”
Mr Leech added: “The hordes of volunteers who give up their Saturdays, Sundays and evenings during the week to train these young people that will be the key to the success of the bid.”
The bid team also see the retention of young people and engagement as key to the region’s growth.
“Young women seem to fall out of sport a few years before lads do,” said Mr Leech.
Main image courtesy of PatchworkFoundation via YouTube, with thanks.