Sports for Social Change Awards – winners are Rashford, Macari, Dons Local Action Group and Rainford-Brent

SJA Sport for Social Change 2020 Awards

The Sports Journalists’ Association are delighted to announce the four winners of our special Sport for Social Change 2020 Awards, in recognition of the work sportsmen, women and organisations have done to help people cope with the massive challenges created this year.

Marcus Rashford, MBE, Lou Macari, Ebony Rainford-Brent and the Dons Local Action Group (formed by AFC Wimbledon supporters) are all recipients of an award which is traditionally  presented at the SJA British Sports Awards. It has been expanded in 2020 as a salute to the extraordinary contribution made by the quartet of winners.

The Sport for Social Change Awards, including interviews with the winners, will form part of the virtual SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by The National Lottery, to be streamed on December 10 (2.0pm) via the awards website

Marcus Rashford

Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford has shown a maturity belying his 23 years to headline a campaign to ensure the Government took responsibility for feeding hungry children during school holidays. The public support he enjoyed forced the Government into two embarrassing policy U-turns.

Marcus, remembering his own childhood in Wythenshawe, Manchester refused to accept these victories as the end game. He has carried on campaigning and won widespread national support in raising funds to keep feeding the needy and hungry.

SJA Chair Ashley Broadley said: “Marcus Rashford has shown maturity beyond his years, highlighting again the influence footballers can have in society. He has now become a hero off the football field.”

Lou Macari

Former Stoke manager Lou Macari is 71 and no longer involved in football management. Instead, he devotes hours every day helping the homeless of Stoke through the Macari Foundation. Lou set up his original hostel for the homeless four years ago. He developed a site which included two dormitories for men and one for women. And then came coronavirus to leave that accommodation severely compromised.

Lou refused to allow his commitment to buckle. At an age when Government advice has been to stay at home and stay safe, the indefatigable Macari has led a campaign to help the homeless of his adopted city of Stoke.

He asked the city council for new premises and they came up with a building that Lou and his team of helpers set about equipping. The results are astonishing as the men and women in the new Macari Centre have their own individual pods ensuring greater privacy and distance from other people – critical in the fight to beat coronavirus.

SJA Chair Ashley Broadley said: “Homeless people in Stoke have Lou Macari to thank for his unique initiative to help protect them during the coronavirus crisis, which has no doubt saved lives.”

Dons Local Action Group

Many sports clubs have helped their local communities and fans in need. In a particularly crowded field, our panel of judges felt that the group – linked to AFC Wimbledon – deserved our award.

They were set up by volunteers in response to the COVID-19 crisis but have become a critical part of their local community to fight poverty and isolation. They provide food parcels, household goods, furniture, appliances and laptops through their Keep Kids Connected campaign to help children learn from home.

SJA Chair Ashley Broadley said: “The Dons Local Action Group’s work is a terrific example of the positive impact football clubs can have on local communities.”

Ebony Rainford-Brent

COVID-19 has obviously been a massive issue but 2020 has also been the year of Black Lives Matter. We are honouring cricket broadcaster Ebony Rainford-Brent for her work highlighting the need to create equal opportunities for black sports players and administrators in the UK and beyond.

Ebony, a former England women’s international, joined the Sky Sports team this year and produced a stunning piece of journalism in which she and former West Indies legend Michael Holding reflected on the racism they have faced in their lives, how they have dealt with it and the challenges society, sport, and the media, still face to overcome the evil of endemic racism.

Ebony’s talking heads with Michael was by turn heart-breaking, moving and inspirational. While there were other black sportsmen and women who have had huge impacts on our lives and society in 2020, the SJA decided Ebony deserved special acclaim for a cause that must triumph.

SJA Chair Ashley Broadley said: “Ebony Rainford-Brent’s piece with Michael Holding is so powerful that describing it is difficult – please just watch it.”

Tune in to the virtual SJA British Sports Awards 2020 on December 10 (2.0pm) when the winners of the sportsman, sportswoman, disabled athlete and sports team of the year will be announced. And Sir Michael Parkinson and Jim Rosenthal will review the greatest British sportsmen and women of the past 71 years before we reveal who the SJA members voted as Britain’s greatest sports stars.