Sporting Equals Awards: England Athletics Dominate the Podium!

The podium has been dominated by England Athletics at the Sporting Equals Awards 2023! The sport had winners in five categories in a night of celebration at the Royal Lancaster Hotel. Sol Campbell, Azeem Rafiq and Basketball England were amongst the other major winners on the night.

The Sporting Equals Awards saw 500 people come together in central London to celebrate the achievements of ethnically diverse athletes, coaches, volunteers and communities. Known as the MOBOs of sport the awards shine a light on emerging stars as well as those already at the forefront of their disciplines. Vitally the Sporting Equals Awards pay tribute to the work and progress made in race equality.

Sol Campbell won the Sporting Equals Lifetime Achievement. In a career that saw him win every domestic title, break records for England mens football team and Campbell has been determined to champion race equality as a player and manager. He has spoken out both while active as a player and manager, knowing this may make him unpopular but knowing too that speaking out was the right thing to do. He was the first Black man to score for England. Aged 21 he made his senior international debut and became the second youngest captain ever, aged only 23. He is one of only 13 players to have played over 500 Premier League games, the only player to have represented England men in six consecutive major tournaments and amassed 73 caps.

Azeem Rafiq picked up the Yakinori Change Maker Award. The former professional cricketer and race equality campaigner chose to make public his experiences of racism in the game and force change. This made for an uncomfortable life and brought a premature end to his playing career, but Rafiq has remained undeterred – relentlessly fighting for justice and equality. Azeem set the direction of travel by publicly confronting his experiences. Others have now followed and in cricket the bold, accountable decision has been taken to deliver the ICEC Report. All this started with one man, Azeem Rafiq, the Change Maker.

Basketball England won The Bishop, Lloyd & Jackson Sport Organisation of the Year Award. The national governing body for basketball was the only one to achieve a Grade A in the Race Representation Index for 2022. The award recognises the significant action taken by the governing body to advance race equality from the top down. Basketball England took action on a macro and micro level to gradually influence change and become more ethnically diverse from the top down. The board is 30% ethnically diverse, which as resulted in the workforce growing from 12% to 25% ethnically diverse and the sport as a whole is 34% ethnically diverse.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson won the Peloton Sportswoman of the Year award. 22022/23 was a year in which Johnson-Thompson returned to the top of the podium after a difficult period of time. She started by winning the Commonwealth Games Heptahlon title in 2022, then caught the imagination of the British public by winning the World Championship in 2023.

Zharnel Huges is the University of Leciester Sportsman of the Year. In 2022 he won the European 200m title and in 2023 became the fastest British man in history, taking the 100m record from Linford Christie. In 2023 he also won the 100m bronze at the World Championships.

Ayesha Jones won the Youth Sport Trust Young Sportsperson of the Year award. She has captured the attention of judges and the public alike with her phenomenal 2022 and 2023 seasons. She is the Commonwealth Youth Games champion and record holder for javelin, throwing an astronomical 52.29m. She is also a shotputter for England.

Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker took the UK Sport Rising Star of the Year award. Emmanuel debuted in the Commonwealth Games and won the T45/47 100m title. As well as setting the track ablaze he is an inspiration to schools in the Essex and London areas, doing regular visits and educating young people on the importance of physical activity.

Leon Baptiste won the England Athletics Coach of the Year. Leon has taken an innovative and inclusive approach to coaching. He has combined the athletes he coaches from both Olympic and Paralympic disciplines. His group of athletes have gone on to win medals around the world.

Krimmz Girls Youth Club have been awarded the Sport England Community Sports Project of the Year. This is a multi-sport project based in Bolton and is led by one of the very few Muslim women coaches in the UK. Krimmz engages ethnically diverse communities to be more active by respecting religious commitments and considering these when facilitating exercise.

Ashok Das is the FA Community Champion has been a community volunteer for 19 years. Ashok helped introduce and teach Kabaddi in the British Army as well as to schools. He was instrumental in developing and then training the England Kabaddi Women’s Team.

Nalette Tucker won the LTA Tennis Foundation Outstanding Contribution to Tennis prize. This was in recognition for her work as an LTA SERVES Activator and having founded Sunna Sports. In 2014 she set up the Sunnah Sports Academy Trust offering lessons and coaching to communities in Bradford.

All winners and finalists (Brackets)
Sporting Equals Lifetime Achievement Award – Sol Campbell
Yakinori Change Maker Award – Azeem Rafiq
Bishop, Lloyd & Jackson Sports Organisation of the Year – Basketball England
LTA Tennis Foundation Outstanding Contribution to Tennis Award – Nalette Tucker (Arum Akom, Carolle and Iman Tennis)
Peloton Sportswoman of the Year – Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Natasha Jonas, Rachel Choong)
University of Leicester Sportsman of the Year – Zharnel Hughes (Moeen Ali OBE, Key Whyte)
Youth Sport Trust Young Sportsperson of the Year – Ayesha Jones (Desharne Bent-Ashmeil and Rowin Manjit Singh Leil Il)
UK Sport Rising Star of the Year – Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker (Issy Wong, Ziana Butt BEM)
England Athletics Coach of the Year – Leon Baptiste (Darren Moore, Ruth Eytle)
Sport England Community Sports Project of the Year – Krimmz Girls Youth Club (Leicester Nirvana FC, Mixed Martial Arts for Reform and Progression)
The FA Community Champion of the Year – Ashok Das (Zhico Chatha, Safiya Saeed)

Azeem Rafiq: “Thank you to Sporting Equals for presenting me with the Yakinori Change Maker Award. This has been a long, lonely journey but one worth taking. However I have been supported by the likes of Sporting Equals and as time has gone on others have joined us. We need sport to embrace accountability and transparency. There must be an understanding that this is a process and sport will not become anti-racist over night, but if we work together and are empathetic it is possible.”

Arun Kang OBE, CEO of Sporting Equals: “This year has shown more than ever the importance of these awards. In recognising and celebrating role models and projects on and off the field to ensure they receive the accolade they deserve. My sincere congratulations to all the winners.”

Viveen Taylor, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Sport, Sport England: “Sport England is determined to tackle the inequalities and under-representation of culturally diverse communities in all areas of sport and physical activity. By shining a spotlight on the sporting excellence and talent that exists within culturally diverse communities, these awards are an important part of achieving our ambition. It is only by working together, with partners like Sporting Equals, that we can help to change attitudes and increase participation in sport and physical activity for all. Sporting Equals Awards are leading the way in helping to create a sporting system that’s truly inclusive and that properly reflects our society.”

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