HURLING footballs into the air, councillors joined forces to get behind Portsmouth’s bid to become the UK City of Football.
Members lined the steps of Portsmouth Guildhall yesterday to highlight the importance of clinching the title.
The hustle and bustle of new graduates attending award ceremonies in the Guildhall didn’t stop political parties seeking to make a statement.
As reported in The News, Portsmouth is one of three cities, the others being Nottingham and Manchester, in the running for the coveted title.
The winner will be awarded up to £1.6m by Sport England over a two-year training programme to help drive up the number of young people playing the sport.
Sporting a Pompey shirt, council leader Cllr Donna Jones said: ‘No city has a passion for football to match Portsmouth.
‘We’ve made a fantastic start to becoming the City of Football and I’m sure the whole city’s right behind us.
‘This bid is made even more significant by the fact that Portsmouth has the largest fan-owned football club in the country.’
The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Cllr Steven Wylie said: ‘Whether we are at the top of the league or in the bottom leagues, this city lives and breathes football.
‘Like we say we’re part of the Royal Navy, we’re certainly part of the football family of this country.’
The council is working with a range of organisations on the bid, including Pompey, Pompey in the Community, the University of Portsmouth, the Royal Navy and The News.
David Williams, the council’s chief executive, said the city was in a strong position given its rich footballing history – and the opportunity would help to improve public health.
‘Football is at the heart of this city, it’s part of its heart and soul,’ he said.
‘Football participation is key in engaging people in community activity and in improving their health and activity levels, so that as years go on, they are healthier and fitter, so there are a whole raft of positive aspects around football.
‘Football has been associated with this city forever.’
He added: ‘We have had some very famous players, including Arthur Conan Doyle, who was Pompey’s goalkeeper.’
Cllr Linda Symes, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said she felt confident and thought the city had a great chance of being chosen.
Judges will visit Portsmouth in September before deciding.