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Former West Ham footballer honoured by UEL

UEL students graduation

His former career as a footballer has taken him all around the world, but for Bobby Barnes receiving his honorary doctorate from the University of East London was like coming home. Barnes received his honorary doctorate in science from UEL’s School of Health Sports and Bioscience, at their graduation ceremony on Monday 16 November, in the indigo at the O2.

“I was brought up in Leytonstone,” revealed Bobby, “and I travel very regularly to City Airport and drive past the campus every day.  UEL opens up opportunities for Higher Education to people of all backgrounds, and that to me is the message to young people – that regardless of your background, if you have the desire and the motivation and the work ethic, you can achieve those dreams.” 

Barnes made over 300 appearances in the Football League and represented England at youth level.  But it is more for his work looking after the interests of footballers off the pitch as Deputy Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers Association, that he was honoured.  

He said “People think that when a footballer retires he is going to go off into the sunset, to play golf and sail his yacht.  But the reality is that for a lot of footballers, when they retire they have to go back into the workplace and find another profession.”

Barnes began his football career as an apprentice with West Ham United in 1981. 

During his 16 year career he went to onto play for teams including Scunthorpe United;  Swindon Town; Bournemouth, and Partick Thistle, as well as Frankwell FC and UhisportRangers in Hong Kong.
But when it came time to retire from playing, Barnes was well prepared.

“I studied business when I was a young footballer, and when I came to the latter part of my career I studied financial services.  So my first step into work in the real world was in the financial services industry.”

It was while working in this field that he was approached by former player Brendon Batson who was running the financial arm of the PFA.  He suggested that Barnes could be doing the same thing for footballers, so he joined the PFA as a financial consultant, advising players how they could best invest their money.

He later joined the PFA full-time and is now Deputy Chief Executive, with responsibility for the London office, working across all areas of the PFA including Equalities, Communities and Charity, Education, Financial and General Matters.