A gala for all generations as British Sports Awards marks 75 years of the SJA

Celebratory event at the Kia Oval brings together sporting legends and rising stars; Stuart Broad, Mary Earps and Manchester City named Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year respectively; other winners include Emma Finucane, Zharnel Hughes and Dele Alli…

By Jon Holmes

Dame Sarah Storey with award winner Emma Finucane and Pauline Brook, collecting the Peter Wilson Trophy on behalf of her grandson, England cricketer Harry Brook

Silver trophies, diamond lights, pearls of wisdom and golden memories – the 2023 edition of the British Sports Awards was another jewel in the crown of the Sports Journalists’ Association.

A glittering guest list at the Kia Oval included some of the greatest athletes the UK has ever produced and an eye-catching array of up-and-comers, many of whom will be chasing shiny medals in Paris next summer.

With hosts Jim Rosenthal and Karthi Gnanasegaram providing a little razzle-dazzle and a lot of warmth, there was a truly festive feel to this British sporting family get-together.

Get a flavour of the SJA British Sports Awards 2023, supported by the National Lottery – watch here!

Taking the big prizes on offer were England’s Ashes hero Stuart Broad, the Lionesses’ sensational shot-stopper Mary Earps, and Treble winners Manchester City, named Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year respectively.

Broad’s exploits at the same Oval venue lifted the entire nation in the summer and with the 37-year-old having taken 600 Test wickets before retiring from cricket, the SJA’s membership selected him for a special honour.

World 1,500m champion Josh Kerr was runner-up, while racing legend Frankie Dettori finished third in the vote.

‘Queen of Stops’ Earps, who claimed the Golden Glove after the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in August, got her hands on the SJA’s number one award as successor to last year’s winner, her Lionesses team-mate Beth Mead.

The England goalkeeper saw off the challenge of heptathlon world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Ashes double-centurion Tammy Beaumont.

The victorious European Ryder Cup team and the Women’s World Cup runners-up England were in the running for Team of the Year, but just as they did in the 2022/23 campaign, Manchester City swept their rivals aside to add this trophy to their Treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson was recognised for her resilience after recovering from the disappointment of finishing eighth in the heptathlon at the 2022 World Athletics Championships to take the gold medal at the Worlds in Budapest in August.

She won the SJA Committee Award, with the citation read by Dame Denise Lewis whose Olympic triumph at Sydney 2000 Johnson-Thompson hopes to emulate in eight months’ time.

Thursday’s event at the Oval began with the announcement of a major sports journalism honour.

Former SJA chair David Emery sadly passed away in June at the age of 76 and he is the posthumous recipient of the Doug Gardner Award, which honours an SJA member who has made an outstanding contribution to their industry.

The career of ‘Mr E’ included the sports editorship of the Express as well as substantial writing, sub-editing and publishing achievements. 

Guests at the British Sports Awards remember David Emery

Glasses were also raised in memory of former SJA President Sir Michael Parkinson, who died in August. He was a regular at the British Sports Awards and the Journalism Awards for many years and thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the country’s best sportspeople and the media that cover them.

One of the ‘Super Saturday’ trio from London 2012, Greg Rutherford, stepped up to present the National Lottery Spirit of Sport Award to another Olympic gold medallist, Eve Muirhead.

The award recognises outstanding performers who prove themselves to be role models in life as well as in sport. Muirhead, who skippered Britain to curling glory at Tokyo 2020, will be flying east again in January 2024 to lead Team GB’s next generation at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in South Korea.

Greg Rutherford and National Lottery Spirit of Sport Award winner Eve Muirhead

As was the case last year, there were joint winners of the Peter Wilson Trophy for breakthrough athlete of the year. Yorkshire and England batsman Harry Brook couldn’t be with us in person and sent his grandmother Pauline to collect the award, while 20-year-old track cyclist Emma Finucane – who became world champion in women’s individual sprint – was in town to pick up her prize from a legend of her sport, ParalympicsGB great Dame Sarah Storey.

In one of the afternoon’s most powerful moments, Linford Christie announced Zharnel Hughes – the man who broke his 30-year-old British 100m record – as the recipient of the Pat Besford Award for outstanding performance of the year.

Christie, now 63, reflected on his career-defining 9.96 seconds at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in a conversation with Rosenthal and spoke of his admiration for Hughes, who also broke John Regis’ 200m British record in 2023 before medalling in the 100m at the World Championships.

In her 30-year stint at the Football Association, Kelly Simmons played a colossal role in elevating women’s football to the status it enjoys in England today. She is the latest worthy winner of the J.L. Manning Award for services to sport off the field of play.

Kelly Simmons with J.L. Manning Award presenter Faye Carruthers

Sixty years ago, the SJA (then known as the Sports Writers’ Association) made the first presentation of an award for para athletes, thought to be the first of its kind in sport. The newest names on the Bill McGowran Trophy are Ellie Challis – who earned multiple medals at the World Para Swimming Championships in Manchester this summer – Neil Fachie, and Matthew Robertson.

The latter are the para-cyclist and pilot pair who came away from the Para-cycling Track World Championships in Glasgow with three glorious golds.

British Paralympic Association chief executive David Clark presents the Bill McGowran Trophy awards to para-swimmer Ellie Challis and pilot cyclist Matthew Robertson, who was a winner alongside Neil Fachie

The SJA Chair’s Award recognised the significant contribution that its winner has made to British sport in just over a decade as manager of her club.

Emma Hayes will leave Chelsea next summer to take charge of the US national team – one of the most high-profile roles in women’s football worldwide. She departs with at least six WSL titles and five FA Women’s Cups on her resume – and it’ll be no surprise if she adds one or two more before she heads stateside.

SJA Chair Ashley Broadley cited Hayes’ appreciation for the role of the media as he handed her the award.

Emma Hayes collects her SJA Chair’s Award from Ashley Broadley

There were six outstanding organisations in contention for the SJA Sport for Change Award, made in association with the Sport for Development Coalition.

Tackle came out on top, taking the trophy from Brentford defender Ben Mee after impressing the judges with its 21-year track record in delivering essential HIV awareness to young people across Africa through the power of football.

Brentford’s Ben Mee awarded the SJA Sport for Change prize to Tackle

The Sky and Kick It Out Equality and Inclusion Award was making its third appearance at the British Sports Awards.

Footballer Troy Deeney, now leading the line for Forest Green Rovers, was the recipient in recognition of his consistent calling-out of racism and for using his voice to transcend sport and educate through The Black Curriculum.

Honourable mentions were made by Kick It Out CEO Tony Burnett for four more who were in the frame – Aaron Ramsdale; Isa Guha; Joel Mannix and Aji Ajibola; and Rosie and Mollie Kmita – all of whom have helped in the fight against discrimination in sport and to empower diverse groups.

Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett with Equality and Inclusion Award winner Troy Deeney

Before the announcement of the headline winners, it was time for Darren Lewis to present the first SJA President’s Award of his tenure.

He selected Everton midfielder Dele Alli, whose fortunes as a footballer have fluctuated since he helped England reach the World Cup semi-finals in Russia five years ago but who became a shining light this July when he joined sport’s ongoing conversation about mental health and addiction.


Sportsman of the Year: Stuart Broad (cricket)

Sportswoman of the Year: Mary Earps (football)

Team of the Year: Manchester City men’s football team

SJA Pat Besford Award for outstanding performance of the year: Zharnel Hughes (athletics)

SJA President’s Award: Dele Alli

SJA Committee Award: Katarina Johnson-Thompson (athletics)

J.L. Manning Award for services off the field of play: Kelly Simmons (football)

SJA Bill McGowran Trophy for male and female para athlete of the year: Neil Fachie and Matthew Robertson (cycling), and Ellie Challis (swimming)

SJA Chairman’s Award: Emma Hayes

SJA Peter Wilson Trophy for breakthrough performance of the year: Harry Brook (cricket) and Emma Finucane (cycling)

The National Lottery Spirit of Sport Award: Eve Muirhead

Sky | Kick It Out Award for Equality and Inclusion: Troy Deeney

SJA Sport for Change Award, in association with the Sport for Development Coalition: Tackle

SJA Doug Gardner Award: David Emery

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