Inspirational sports philanthropist and successful entrepreneur Barrie Wells was today made an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration by Edge Hill University.
Barrie has made the dreams of many come true, helping some of the UK’s top athletes achieve their potential, as well as inspiring the sportspeople of tomorrow and providing opportunities for seriously ill children to enjoy world class sporting and entertainment events.
Barrie, originally from Liverpool and a student of Merchant Taylors’ School in Crosby, is a financial services entrepreneur and was also a non-executive director of M&S Money. He established successful insurance businesses which were later sold to AXA and Allianz.
In 2009 he set up the Wells Sports Foundation after being inspired by a visit to the Beijing Olympic Games. He decided to offer funding to athletes to help them achieve their dreams of gaining a podium place at the London Games.
In return for providing funding, he asked the athletes to give up their time to inspire school children to take up sport under the Wells Sports Foundation’s Athletes 4 Schools scheme, which in total worked with more than 35,000 school children, encouraging them to pursue their dreams whilst also promoting the importance of leading an active lifestyle.
The athletes he has supported who have taken part in the scheme are Olympic medallists Jessica Ennis-Hill and Beth Tweddle and Liverpool’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson, currently ranked as World number one in the heptathlon.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who accompanied Barrie to his graduation ceremony at Edge Hill, said: “Barrie has helped me get where I am today. He believed in me long before the 2012 Olympics when he began sponsoring me in 2009. He bought me my first car which meant I could travel to training and events, but his support has been motivational as well as financial, as he is very knowledgeable about athletics.”
Barrie Wells described feeling “delighted” after being invited to accept his honorary doctorate in business administration from Edge Hill University, firstly because of the university’s reputation in the field of sport, but also because he attended school just a few miles away.
Speaking about his funding of Olympic champions in 2012 and hopefuls for 2016, he told Edge Hill graduands about his best moment of the London Games, and how it wasn’t Jessica Ennis-Hill receiving her gold medal, but on the first day of the heptathlon when he looked at the scoreboard and saw Jessica’s name in first place and the “outrageously talented” Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who was just 19 at the time in third place. Now she is ranked as the top all-round athlete in the world.
The Wells Sports Foundation now aims to enrich the lives of children through Box 4 Kids – an opportunity for seriously ill and disabled children and their loved ones to enjoy a VIP day at major sporting events in the comfort of an executive box.
It is through Barrie’s personal campaign that Box 4 Kids has now been rolled out to many other Premier League football clubs and Rugby League and Union grounds across the country as well as Wimbledon, Lord’s Cricket Ground and Formula 1 at Silverstone. It also now extends to major entertainment arenas including the O2, and the Royal Albert Hall for shows such as Cirque Du Soleil and One Direction.
“One of the best ways to enhance your own life is to enhance others. To help seriously ill and disabled children experience a dream is real success to me and to be recognised for doing this with such a prestigious honorary degree from Edge Hill is truly fulfilling. I am honoured and very grateful.”
Listen to a podcast with Barrie from today’s graduation here: