WELCOME to the first instalment of my new monthly column for The Northern Echo.

It’s called ‘Safety First’ because my aim is give regular updates on what The Sparta Group is doing to be the number one security company in the North-East, and how we are helping businesses and householders to make their own security a priority.

After a career as a professional boxer, I launched Sparta 11 years ago and, with the support of my wife Rachel and my team of more than 80 employees, the company has gone from strength to strength.

I hope you enjoy these monthly columns, and find them useful in deterring crime and keeping your property safe wherever you are…


SPARTA has an increasing customer base and we are thrilled to welcome Containerships as a new client.

It’s a high-profile business, dealing with all kinds of freight services at Haverton Hill, on Teesside. We’ll be providing 24/7 security, including dog-handlers, and it’s great to have them on board the good ship Sparta.

OUR work is incredibly varied, and we were also engaged recently to provide the security for an executive wedding at Close House, on Tyneside.

Unfortunately, the wedding has had to be cancelled due to Covid-19, but suffice to say we will be making sure the happy couple, and their guests, feel safe and secure once it can be rearranged.

Sparta has taken out corporate membership at Close House, and I’m doing my best to get my golf handicap down. I had a four-ball, including Alan Shearer, following me recently and I apologised at the end for holding them up!

Oh, and I bumped into Frankie Dettori up at Close House the other day. Mind you, he wasn’t on a horse and he didn’t give me any tips – not even how to improve my swing.


ON the subject of tips, I’ll be trying to give readers of my column some security advice in the months ahead…

I hate to say it but I think we’re in for a crime surge when furlough comes to an end this month.

People are going to be desperate for money, and Christmas is on the horizon, so it’s important to be proactive about your security.

Obviously, the best advice I can give you is to employ a professional security company like Sparta, but there’s also a lot you can do independently to deter criminals. For example, installing Guardcam floodlights and cameras is relatively inexpensive.

Another tip is to buy an old car from a scrapyard and get a sign-writer to do it up with the word “SECURITY” emblazoned on the side. Stick a high-res security jacket on the back of the driver’s seat and keep moving the vehicle around different parts of your site.

Make sure there’s a light on in a nearby building to make the crooks think there’s a security guard nearby. The trick is to put doubt in their minds.


RACHEL and I are real animal lovers and Sparta has around 30 dogs on its books, playing a vital role in the business.

The Northern Echo:

We are also proud to be helping a fantastic lady called Mandy Butler who voluntarily runs “The Lost Dog Trapping Team – UK Search & Rescue Network.

Mandy lives in Stockton and she does an amazing job in helping reunite owners with lost dogs. She recently drove all the way to Galashiels to track down and catch a dog called Nora, who’d gone missing while her owners were on holiday.

As I write this column, Mandy is in the process of reuniting Nora with her owners, who live in Derby.

She had a clapped-out old van so we provide her with a reliable vehicle to make sure she can carry on her wonderful work without having to worry about breaking down.

Thank you, Mandy – you’re a star.

I STUMBLED upon a high-speed police chase while I was on patrol recently and it turned out to be badger-baiters.

I chased one of them into the woods, but the police helicopter was called in, and I hope these horrible people get their just desserts. What makes them derive pleasure out of such cruelty? It really is beyond me.


FINALLY, I know a lot of people are finding it hard during the pandemic but please remember that after every storm there’s sunshine.

I’m a committed Christian and I passionately believe that God is there to guide us. Each one of these columns will, therefore, end with a quote from The Bible, and this is the one I’ve chosen this month:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Stay safe everyone…Francis