The great and good of the sport industry reunited in London to celebrate the 20th edition of the Sport Industry Awards, marking the first major event that brought the entire sector together since COVID-19 and among the big winners at the star-studded ceremony – hosted by Laura Woods and Mark Durden-Smith - were Marcus Rashford MBE and Barry Hearn OBE.
England and Manchester United forward Rashford was named recipient of the prestigious Integrity and Impact Award in association with Dow Jones Risk & Compliance; honoured for the remarkable work he has done – both on and off the pitch – in fighting for those less fortunate, less represented, and less heard in our society.
Over the last year, Rashford’s voice has been prominent in the fight against racism and the Black Lives Matter movement, following the tragic death of George Floyd.
Simultaneously, he has drawn from personal experience to tirelessly campaign against child food poverty and for free school lunches, forcing a Government u-turn and bringing relief to thousands of families nationwide. He has transcended his role as an athlete and used his platform to enact real social change on a scale scarcely seen before.
He becomes the fourth recipient of the Award, following on from US gymnast Rachel Denhollander for speaking out against her abuser Larry Nasser, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling for his work fighting racism in football, and the USWNT’s Megan Rapinoe for her uniting voice amid a divisive America and her continued action for the LGBTQ+ community.
- To see the full list of winners, CLICK HERE.
Unable to attend on the night, Rashford appeared in an acceptance video (below), explaining that: “I’m humbled to be recognised and to join Megan, Raheem, and Rachel in winning this Award - they are all amazing people, and I’m proud to be named amongst them.
“Being a Premier League footballer was always my dream but with it comes a lot of responsibilities and privileges. I know how fortunate I am, so I’m just doing what I can to help young people in the same situation I was in growing up.
“We hear a lot about divisions in society, but amazing things are possible when people come together and sport has the power to make that happen. So, a big thank you to everyone that has supported the campaign against child food poverty and please, let’s keep going because this is greater than ever.”
Uniquely positioned to see the impact Rashford’s work has had as a member of the House of Lords, and a Paralympic legend, Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson presented the Award and said: “It’s so wonderful to be here tonight. The past year has been like no other, and in a time of great challenge some athletes have found their voice and sport has become a platform for change. They’ve taken risks and they have been defiant. One athlete spoke for those who had no voice with the power of his words coming from his own lived experience. The personal account of a childhood that was defined by the love of his mother, football and hunger.
“Putting your head above the parapet as an athlete comes with some risk, and openly holding the Prime Minister and government to task is another level. Marcus’ voice has been prominent in the fight against racism and tirelessly campaigning against food poverty and for free school lunches forcing a government U-turn and bringing relief to thousands of families nationwide.”
“He has transcended his role as an athlete and used his platform to enact real social change on a scale scarcely seen before, fighting for those less fortunate, less represented, and less heard in our society."
Meanwhile, the Coutts Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Barry Hearn OBE by his son Eddie, celebrating a 40-year career as Chairman of Matchroom Sport.
Starting with snooker tournaments in Romford, Hearn has built Matchroom Sport in to one of the world’s leading sports promoters, in boxing, darts, gymnastics, snooker and pool, and the room stood to mark his achievements.
Upon being presented with the Award, Hearn said: “In 1975 I started promoting sport, I did it for one simple reason, because I’m a failed sportsman. I love sport, I’m passionate about it. I always wanted to be heavyweight champion or to play for England.
“I’ve ended up, since 1982, the Chairman and now the President of Matchroom Sport. We have given young men and women the opportunity to change their lives through sport. Irrespective of where they have come from, sport lets you get even against the world, and that's what sport is about. It's why we dedicate ourselves and go the extra mile and create a work ethic no one else can live with. Because we are special. Sport unifies the nation, irrespective of colour, creed, religion. Sport is all embracing and we need it more than anything else through these difficult times.
“There is over 150 people in the Matchroom group and I want to thank everyone of them because I wouldn't be here without them, including my son who reminds me so much of me. He steals all my quotes, none of what Eddie says is original.
“To receive this award, I’m eternally grateful. Thank you.”
Other notable winners on the night included Sky Sports, who claimed Media Organisation of the Year, for their work in both broadcasting and driving social change through sport. Accepting the Award was Cricket World Cup Winner Ebony Rainford-Brent, who took a leading role alongside former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding in Sky Sports’ pivotal piece on racism in sport.
Sport Organisation of the Year in association with AXA XL went to Sport England for the vital work the organisation did in supporting the entire sport sector throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, while Ear to the Ground were named Agency of the Year for the first time.
The Active & Wellbeing Award went to the FA for the Heads Up Campaign, which encourages men to talk about their mental health, while Campaign of the Year in association with YouGov Sport went to the 2.6 Challenge - a campaign setup to save the UK's charities during the pandemic.
The Creative Content Award in association with Shutterstock went to the ECB for the beautiful The Wait video, while the Tessa Jowell Community Award in association with abrdn was handed to Harder Than You Think for their pioneering Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix.
Every year, the Sport Industry Awards recognise the incredible work that have united communities, driven our industry forward, and brought unbridled joy to fans and athletes alike. In 2020 the Awards were delivered online for the first time ever, but now Evolution London has seen over high-profile guests and celebrities reunite and celebrate each other’s success.
The Sport Industry Awards 2022 are slated to return on Thursday 12th May.