Sir Geoff honoured

West Ham United and England great Sir Geoff Hurst has been conferred with an honorary degree by the University of East London.

Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the 1966 FIFA World Cup final victory over West Germany, received an honorary Master of the Arts degree.

Now 68, the striker scored 249 goals in 502 appearances for the Hammers during a glittering 14-year career at the Boleyn Ground, winning the FA Cup in 1964 and European Cup Winners' Cup in 1965.

Hurst was presented with his degree by UEL Vice-Chancellor Patrick McGhee at a special ceremony in central London.

"It is a great honour to be recognised in this way by the University of East London, and I am tremendously proud to have had this award conferred upon me. Many of you will be familiar with my long-standing connections to the local area.

"However, rather than looking back, I believe it's time to look forward. I understand the University of East London is aiming to become London's number one university for sport. A brand new £20m sports centre is to open at the university's Docklands campus in 2012, a centre so advanced that it will house the American Olympic team during the games.

"Clearly the long-term benefits will lie with the students and the local community. I am well aware of the importance of sport to east London, and I am also aware of the number of fantastic sportsmen and women the area has produced down the years.

"I therefore think it is a fitting that that the University of East London is rising to meet the challenge of ensuring that sporting excellence is kept firmly on the map. I sincerely hope today will mark the first step in an ongoing relationship between myself and UEL. "

McGhee said the university was delighted to honour Hurst, who also played for Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Seattle Sounders.

"We are extremely proud to be honouring one of England's greatest sporting heroes. Sir Geoff is an iconic figure who will always have a unique place in football history.

"However, he is also someone who has selflessly dedicated much of time since professional football to supporting children's charities. Sir Geoff is the current President of children's charity Sparks, which was founded by sports people and funds high quality medical research that is intended to have a practical and positive effect on the lives of less fortunate children. He has also been a leading light in the development of football at grass roots.

"As a global university committed to becoming the best in the capital for sport within five years, sport in east London is a major aspect of work. With our new state-of-the-art on campus sporting facilities, our work in Olympic legacy, and through our international partners, we will have a key role in bringing exceptional world class opportunities to all communities.

"UEL aims to offer all students the very best sporting environment possible to develop their talents. Honouring Sir Geoff as one of the nation's sporting greats, as a role model for our current and future students, is a natural extension of that commitment."