How we reached the 75th British Sports Awards: A timeline of key moments and milestones

At the first Sports Awards back in 1949, there were five joint winners but since then, a Sportsman of the Year has been crowned annually, with Sportswoman and Team awards added in 1959 and 1970 respectively; here’s a potted history of the oldest sports awards ceremony in Britain…

By Philip Barker

Steve Redgrave celebrates his fifth Olympic gold medal, in the men’s coxless four rowing at the Sydney 2000 Games (image: Clive Brunskill/Allsport)

Reg Harris

Grateful acknowledgement is made to David Hunn’s history of the association, written in 1998


  • The Sports Writers’ Association is founded “to promote and maintain a high professional standard among journalists who specialise in sport in all its branches and to serve their interests”
  • Annual subscription is 10 shillings (50 pence) with a signing-on fee of 11s (55 pence) for those aged over 24
  • Cycling journalist Peter Bryan is the first member to enrol, with Harry England elected as the first Chairman
  • At the London Olympics, the SWA hosts visiting journalists at the Piccadilly Hotel
  • BBC Radio’s Sports Report is broadcast for the first time


Freddie Mills
  • Rackets player Jim Dear, cyclist Reg Harris, speedway rider Tommy Price, Johnny Leach from table tennis and boxer Freddie Mills are selected because they “had contributed most to Britain’s international sporting prestige”
  • Mollie Hudson becomes the first woman member of the Association although she is not permitted to attend the annual dinner


  • Sportsman of the Year Roger Bannister runs the first sub-four-minute mile at Oxford with assistance from future SWA President Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway
  • Bannister defeats Australia’s John Landy to win “Miracle Mile” at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver
Jim Dear (image: Clare Adams)


  • BBC Television launches ‘Grandstand’, a weekly five-hour sports programme which runs until 1997


  • Mary Bignal (later Rand) is chosen as the first SWA Sportswoman of the Year


  • The achievements of Para athletes are honoured by the introduction of the Bill McGowran Award, named in memory of SWA stalwart McGowran who died earlier in the year
  • Multi-disciplinary athlete Dick Thompson is the first winner


  • ‘World of Sport’, introduced by Eamonn Andrews, is first shown on ITV


  • Sportsman of the Year is awarded to England’s World Cup-winning footballers as votes for each individual are combined
  • Sports Minister Denis Howell presents the trophy to captain Bobby Moore


  • Wimbledon is televised in colour for the first time


  • At the Mexico Olympics, David Hemery wins the hurdles in a world record time and is crowned Sportsman of the Year
  • ITV launches ‘The Big Match’
  • BBC introduces ‘Sportsnight with Coleman’


  • The Sun is relaunched and heavily promotes its Sunsport section using football


  • ITV’s innovative World Cup panel is masterminded by the SJA’s first President, John Bromley


  • Princess Anne wins European Eventing Championship and is chosen as Sportswoman of the Year
  • The British Lions defeat the New Zealand All Blacks to earn the Team of the Year award


  • Mary Peters is Sportswoman of the Year after her pentathlon gold at Munich Olympics


  • Britain hosts the International Sports Press (AIPS) Congress for the first time
  • Scotland qualify for the World Cup but England are out after failing to beat Poland
  • Brian Clough dubs Polish keeper Jan Tomaczewski “a clown” on television


  • Daily Telegraph swimming correspondent Pat Besford becomes the first woman elected to lead the association


  • Britain attends the Moscow Olympics despite government calls for a boycott
  • Daily Mail journalist Ian Wooldridge is threatened with expulsion after the Kremlin objects to his articles


  • Seb Coe wins Sportsman of the Year for a third consecutive year
  • Ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean win the first of four consecutive Team of the Year awards


  • Tottenham defeat Nottingham Forest in the first Football League match shown live – the programme, on ITV, is introduced by Jim Rosenthal


  • Daily Mail sponsors the arrival in Britain of South African-born middle-distance runner Zola Budd
  • The move causes controversy and protest at the height of the apartheid era
  • Budd competes for Great Britain in the Los Angeles Olympics but collides with Mary Decker in the women’s 3000m final


  • A riot occurs at Heysel Stadium in Brussels before the European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus
  • 39 die during the violence, and English clubs are banned from European competition


  • Today is the first newspaper to feature colour pictures on a daily basis including sports coverage
  • Newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, then in charge of Mirror Group newspapers, bails out the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh which are badly hit by a boycott over the British government’s stance towards South Africa


  • Trans World Sport, a weekly sports television programme syndicated across the world, is shown for the first time


  • Pan-European sports channel Eurosport begins transmission from Osterley as a joint venture between the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and Sky
  • British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) starts broadcasting programmes received with a ‘Squarial’
  • There is a crowd disaster at Hillsborough before the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest – 94 people are killed in the crush that day and three more victims will lose their lives as a result


  • Sky transmits live coverage of West Indies against England, the first time an entire overseas cricket series had been shown live


  • Sky and BSB merge to form Sky Sports


  • The first year of the Premier League – Nottingham Forest v Liverpool is the first match covered live by Sky Sports


  • The Princess Royal attends the association’s 50th anniversary British Sports Awards


  • In Sydney, Steve Redgrave wins his fifth Olympic gold medal


  • The success of the Manchester Commonwealth Games provides impetus for an Olympic bid
  • The Manchester 2002 Organising Committee is awarded the JL Manning Award for services to sport off the field of play


  • Jonny Wilkinson is our Sportsman of the Year after kicking the decisive drop goal to win the Rugby World Cup for England
  • SWA Chairman Peter Wilson suggests a name change of the association to Sports Journalists’ Association


  • An Ashes series is broadcast live on terrestrial television for the final time
  • Channel 4’s coverage of England’s victory wins the SJA’s programme of the year in a new broadcast category
  • London is chosen to host the 2012 Olympics
  • The late David Welch, long-time committee member and former editor of the Daily Telegraph, is awarded the Doug Gardner Award for his campaign to encourage London to host the Games


  • Sport Accord and International Olympic Committee Executive Board meetings are held at the new Westminster Plaza Hotel in London
  • In connection with the event, the SJA stages a special event at County Hall


  • The London Olympics are held
  • The SJA welcomes overseas journalists to a special service held at St Bride’s Church


  • The Commonwealth Games are held in Glasgow
  • The SJA stages a special event at Roundhouse in Glasgow for visiting journalists


  • England win the women’s Cricket World Cup and are chosen as Team of the Year


  • England win the men’s Cricket World Cup


  • The SJA British Sports Awards is held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic


  • England’s Lionesses win the UEFA Women’s European Championships and are chosen as the SJA Team of the Year
  • The SJA welcomes journalists to a reception during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham


  • England are beaten by Spain in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Sydney
  • The tournament receives the widest coverage yet seen for a women’s tournament

Tickets to attend the SJA British Sports Awards 2023 are available to purchase through the awards website:

Tickets are available for individuals, groups and tables of 10 or 12 people. Ticket price includes a sparkling drinks reception; a three-course lunch with tea and coffee; and half a bottle of table wine per person.

TABLE OF 10: £1,200
TABLE OF 12: £1,440

* All Prices ex VAT

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