Manchester City and England star Raheem Sterling has been awarded The Integrity and Impact Award founded by Dow Jones Sports Intelligence at the BT Sport Industry Awards 2019 – the largest commercial sport awards in the world – marking a year in which the footballer used his platform and voice to speak out on a range of social issues.
Sterling received the award from his international manager Gareth Southgate and presenter Dan Walker at Battersea Evolution in London. The honour recognises the City star’s fight against racism in football, and how he has used his considerable platform both in the UK and abroad to call for more to be done to deter racial abuse within the game.
He told 1,700 assembled sport industry guests at Battersea Evolution: “I was just speaking about my personal experiences, I didn’t expect it to get so much attention, I just wanted to bring it to the attention of my audience on Instagram. It’s been really pleasing to see people listening and trying and do better.
“Partly what happens when you try to do good things is you set examples for the next generation coming through. Coming from Liverpool I had people around me like Steven Gerrard that I looked up to and I’m looking at him and thinking what can I do within myself to be half the person and player he was. You take little things and each year you try and develop them and become better not just on the field but off it as well.”
Simon Greenberg, Head of Sport, Dow Jones, said: “As founder and title sponsor of The Integrity and Impact Award, Dow Jones Sports Intelligence congratulates Raheem Sterling for the impact his actions have had in addressing racism in football and other important social issues of diversity and inclusivity, always doing so with integrity and honesty.
"He has given new confidence and a voice to other footballers and athletes to speak out when once they may not have done so. His decision to address a deeply personal issue just before the World Cup also helped set the tone for a new era of openness around the England squad at the most high profile time for the team which then helped reconnect it to the English public; and he has sparked the sports media and the industry more widely to consider conscious or sub-conscious racial bias in their actions."
Sterling becomes the second recipient of the international award, following in the footsteps of Rachel Denhollander, who was the first survivor to speak out against disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and became the inaugural recipient in 2018.
In addition to presenting the honour, Southgate himself was part of an “FA and England Men’s 2018 FIFA World Cup Squad” delegation, which received the Leadership in Sport Award from former UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Baroness Amos.
Southgate picked up the trophy alongside both Martin Glenn and Mark Bullingham, respectively the outgoing and incoming Football Association (The FA) CEOs.
The award recognised the role of those involved in building a new atmosphere within the changing room and developing a new direction for English football which in 2018 culminated in the England Men’s National Team reaching the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The England manager told presenter Alex Scott: “You’re trying to create a culture and an environment where people can be themselves, can express themselves and be the best version of themselves possible.
“I never achieved that as a player but I wanted my players to feel that; that the shirt didn’t weigh heavy, that they could go and express themselves and represent the country. When everyone watches the team they see a mirror of themselves in it and they want to be proud that. These players were a team to be proud of.
“They represent the diversity of the country, they represent the exuberance of youth, and we want to excite our supporters. Yes, we want to win but we want to win in a style that excites people and they want to watch us.”
Former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Tony Blair was also in attendance at the BT Sport Industry Awards at Battersea Evolution to posthumously honour his friend and former colleague Dame Tessa Jowell in front of her family.
The Labour MP and minister was recognised by the sport industry for her services to sport, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and its legacy with the launch of the Tessa Jowell Social Impact Award.
The award - currently called the Social and Sustainable Development Award - will be renamed from 2020, and recognises the organisations that drive environmental, community or broader social benefits through sport.
Blair said: “We all remember the magnificence of the Olympics and the Paralympics - the greatest sporting event this nation has ever delivered. But truth be told we would never have launched the bid to host the Olympics in 2004 without Tessa. We would never have won the bid without Tessa in 2005 and we would never have had such spectacular Games without Tessa’s leadership and vision.
“But for Tessa the Olympics was never just about bringing home the glory and medals for Britain, though she wanted plenty of both - but about sport and its often colossal and underestimated ability to be a force for good.
“She had a passionate belief that sport, as well as being about fun and fitness, should also be about changing lives. She recognised sport’s unique capability to bring people together across boundaries of race and culture and class. She realised its extraordinary reach, and where politics could divide, sport could often unite.
“Tessa was never happier when at the intersection of sport and the service of others. This award is quintessentially Tessa, it represents her values, symbolises her commitment, marks her exceptional contribution to our country and to its sporting life.”
Later in the evening, outgoing UK Sport CEO Liz Nicholl was honoured with the Coutts Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her role in transforming the UK into a global sporting power.
Nicholl was surprised with the trophy by her colleague Dame Katherine Grainger, now Chair of UK Sport, who recognised the impact of Nicholl’s work on her earlier sporting career.
Dame Katherine Grainger said: “I have had an amazing time as an athlete being part of the incredible system Liz built and I have had the most incredible privilege over the past two years working alongside her and seeing first-hand not just the phenomenal professionalism that she brings and the respect she has everywhere, but also the heart and the passion and the excitement of working in high performance sport that is there every day.”