HELLO everyone, welcome to my latest column for The Northern Echo.

Having had a lot of experience in professional boxing, I think I know a winner when I see one and, in my book, Ben Houchen has done a brilliant job as the elected Mayor of Tees Valley.

People might say I shouldn’t get involved in politics, but I’ve never been one to sit on the fence. To me, it’s not about whether someone’s Conservative, Labour, Liberal or whatever else. It’s about what they do, and the difference they make, and Ben Houchen’s track record is there for all to see.

He’s done what he promised by getting Teesside Airport going again, successfully campaigned for Freeport status for the Tees Valley, and has made huge progress in putting plans in place to bring the site of the Teesside steelworks back to life.

Apart from that, he always finds the time to reply to emails – and that earns my respect. He’s always out and about, clearly works hard, and I reckon he deserves to be re-elected on May 6 – irrespective of what political party he represents.

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THE world is starting to feel more normal as we come out of lockdown, and it’s been a pleasure to go about our businesses with the sun shining.

Despite all the economic challenges and uncertainty, I’m delighted to say that The Sparta Group continues to be busy, looking after existing clients, and attracting new ones.

OUR stewards and guards appeared on Look North on BBC 1 recently as we continued to provide security for Richmondshire District Council while hundreds of people congregated at the falls over the Easter bank holidays.

Once again, too many people were drinking alcohol and abusing the Government’s social distancing rules, but I’m pleased to say our guards did a cracking job in maintaining control.

We really value our association with the council in Richmond and I’m thrilled that we’ve now been offered more work by the authority.

SPARTA is working towards various important certifications, including the ISO9001 standards compliance, and Approved Contractor Status (ACS).

We have also employed our own Ricor manager to oversee health and safety within the business. Health and safety will always be our number one priority and an important factor when we tender for contracts, such as the one we’ve recently submitted to Able UK.

BOXERS know all too well how important it is not to stand still. You have to be fleet of foot to be successful and Sparta is evolving all the time.

We are now established as a facilities management company, providing a full range of services on top of our well-established reputation for trusted security.

The fully-rounded services we offer include cleaning, boarding up, welfare, access control, drones, and, fencing.

Welfare cabins have been hard to order during the pandemic, with demand increasing by nearly 200 per cent, and The Sparta Group is now supplying these facilities to customers across the country.

Let us know what you need on your site and we can sort it out for you.

MEANWHILE, we have a big job coming off in Tyne and Wear, as well as another major contract Leeds, but I can’t give further details just yet. Suffice to say these are exciting developments which will help the company go from strength to strength.


GOLF remains my passion and I’ve made my mark in the sport, though not quite in the way I’d dreamed of.

I’ve become officially Rockliffe Hall’s worst ever golfer, having been given a handicap of -43.

This title is something I’ll be doing my best to lose – it may take some time, but I’ll enjoy trying!

That said, there’s definitely hope because I recently came in 43rd out of 101 in a recent competition. It made me happy, even though I managed to lose eight balls – all into the water on the 5th.

They say God loves a trier, and that’s certainly the case on the golf course.


IF you run a business or industrial site, ask yourself this question: “Do I really know, when I leave my base, whether the security guards are patrolling and doing their jobs properly?

With Sparta, you will never have that anxiety because we have state-of-the-art systems in place, which mean are employees are monitored remotely around the clock. They know they have to be on the ball – otherwise, they won’t keep their jobs. It’s as simple as that.


AS a Christian, I always end with an extract from The Bible.

This month, I want to highlight the incredible work local hospices, like St Teresa’s, do in the community, so here are two Bible references that I think are very relevant.

  • Exodus 23:20“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.”
  • Psalm 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Please support your local hospice. Starting on Friday, St Teresa’s Hospice is staging its annual Bark In The Park Event to encouraging dog owners to raise money by doing a sponsored walk with their dogs around South Park in socially distant bubbles. It’s a great event – CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE.

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God bless, everyone. Stay safe, Francis.