Ex footballer swaps ball for boat as he becomes boat club’s newest member and ambassador

A BOAT club has announced that a footballer has joined its ranks as it eyes up expansion across the south coast.

By Sophie Murray
Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 2:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 3:36 pm

Premier Agapi Boat Club, based in Swanwick, announced last Thursday that its newest member is ex Southampton footballer Francis Benali.

The boat club opened late last year and is now hoping to expand to Chichester and Noss on Dart Marina, in Dartford, for the start of the 2022 season, which will ‘enable members the freedom to explore even more of the UK's stunning south coast.’

Francis, 52, attended the Southampton Boat Show with his wife Karen, and will start his RYA Powerboat 2 training with the club soon. Although he has no prior boating experience he is excited to start his training and to get out on the water.

He said: ‘Boating is completely new for me but I really feel in safe hands with the Premier Agapi Boat Club team. Having been out on the water on one of the top of the range fleet today with my wife Karen at the Show, I am even more excited to get started with my training later this month.’

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Andy Mills, business development director at Premier Marinas said: ‘We are delighted that Franny is coming on board. We wanted to work with a first timer because we really want to show how quick and easy it is to get out on the water.’

Francis played for Southampton from 1988-2004 and had 311 caps for the team. He was named as one of ‘Southampton’s Cult Heroes’ in 2006 thanks to his loyalty to the club.

Francis Benali, Agapi boat club's new signing

Francis has been a patron for The Children’s Fire and Burn Trust and The Dave Wellman Cancer Trust, and is known for his charity fundraising. In the 2020 New Year’s Honours, Francis was awarded an MBE for his services to cancer patients.

Since 2014 he has completed fundraisers such as five Ironman triathlons in one week, a marathon every day for two weeks and running to every Premier League ground in three weeks, raising more than a million pounds for Cancer Research UK.

Francis has been awarded an MBE for his charity fundraising
Francis Benali at the Southampton Boat Show