Saints legend Francis Benali to receive Honorary Freedom of Southampton
Former Southampton footballer and club legend Francis Benali will receive the Honorary Freedom of Southampton in recognition of his fundraising achievements for charitable causes. The ceremony will take place at a Special Council Meeting at the Civic Centre on Wednesday 16 November at 2pm.
Francis - or Franny as he’s more affectionately known - was born and bred in Southampton and played 389 times for The Saints in a career spanning 20 years. Franny is still a fan favourite today thanks to his commitment to the club, hardworking attitude and ferocious, full-blooded tackles in his playing days.
Since retiring Franny has remained a big part of Southampton Football Club – working closely with the Saints Foundation – as well as being a Head Coach and Director of fellow Saints legend Matt Le Tissier’s youth academy.
More recently Franny has been in the media spotlight for different reasons – by running and cycling to every Premier League and every Championship stadium in just a fortnight to raise money for charity. It meant running at least one marathon a day and riding a further 75 miles in order to complete the gruelling estimated 1,500 miles on schedule.
This followed his 'Benali's Big Run' challenge for Cancer Research UK in 2014 where he completed a 1,000 mile run in three weeks where he ran to all 20 Premier League grounds – his efforts raising over £265,000. As a result he became the first recipient to be presented with the Barclays Spirit of the Game award in December 2014. He was acknowledged as the Cancer Research UK Flame of Hope Award Winner 2015, Fundraising Volunteer of the Year and also the Just Giving Celebrity Fundraiser of the Year 2015.
Other past recipients of the Honorary Freedom of Southampton include:
• Field Marshall Frederick Roberts (1901)
• General Herbert Kitchener of ‘Your country needs you’ World War 1 recruiting poster fame (1902). Kitchener and his victory at the Battle of Omdurman are commemorated in road names in Portswood
• Former World War 1 British Prime Minister David Lloyd George (1923)
• Ted Bates, former player and manager of Southampton Football Club (2001). Ted is also commemorated with a statue outside St Mary’s stadium
• Former Southampton Football Club legend Matthew Le Tissier (2002)
• Former 1976 FA Cup winning Southampton FC manager Lawrie McMenemy (2007)