Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Ebony Rainford-Brent are among the high-profile sporting personalities to receive MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Sterling, who has won three Premier League titles with Manchester City, receives his honour for services to racial equality in sport, having spoken out candidly on the issue of racism within the game.
“I am grateful to have been recognised, but my priority is to try to help to educate society and myself,” Sterling said. “If it doesn’t start from within, then there’s no way you can help others. I’m learning every day.
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“My motivation for racial equality is to get people to understand the difficulties people from diverse backgrounds face and create an environment where everybody is equal. I feel we are starting to make a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Liverpool captain Henderson, a Champions League and Premier League winner in the last two years, receives his MBE for sporting exploits as well as in recognition of his part in forming a charitable fund, Players Together, which supported NHS good causes during the first coronavirus pandemic lockdown last spring.
Having thanked those who made the initiative a success, Henderson said: “I dedicate this to all the nurses, doctors, carers, porters, admin workers, cleaners, security personnel and every single individual who devotes their career and their lives to making the NHS the part of British life we are rightly most proud of as a nation.”
England cricketer turned commentator Ebony Rainford-Brent becomes an MBE for working strongly against racism in her sport, speaking powerfully and memorably about her own experiences along with former West Indies bowler Michael Holding as part of Sky Sports’ coverage last summer.
She has also been recognised for her work on the ACE Programme Charity, which was founded in January 2020 to engage young people from African and Caribbean heritage following a 75 per cent decline in the number of Black British professional cricketers.
“You never imagine the day you hit your first ball that you’ll get this sort of recognition,” Rainford-Brent told Sky Sports.
“It’s been an incredible year. Everything from working on the ACE Programme, my broadcasting career and the feature with Michael Holding, which shows the direction of travel.
“I’m really honoured and hope to continue to use my platform for good.”
Former England manager Roy Hodgson and tennis player Sue Barker were awarded CBEs for their respective contributions to sport.
Hodgson, 73, managed England in two European Championships, in 2012 and 2016, coming into the first of those at short notice after the resignation of Fabio Capello. He also led England at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when the team were eliminated after two games.
He retired from top-flight management at the end of the 2020-21 season, having last worked at Crystal Palace.
Barker, 65, left Britain to train in the United States aged 17, and enjoyed a successful playing career, with victory in the 1976 French Open the highlight. She moved into broadcasting after injury cut short her career.
“It’s an absolute honour to be awarded a CBE,” Barker said. “To have your work recognised in such a way brings such a sense of pride. Myself and all my family are thrilled, especially my Mum who turns 100 next week.”
Leeds Rhinos legend Kevin Sinfield, who was already an MBE, has now been awarded an OBE. He has been recognised for his successful career on and off the pitch in rugby league but also in raising over £2million for research into motor neurone disease, a condition which has affected his friend and former Rhinos team-mate Rob Burrow.
Sinfield completed the ‘7 in 7’ challenge – seven marathons in seven days – last December, helping to raise cash for research into MND, which has no known cure, and to support those like Burrow who are living with the condition. Sinfield said in April he was planning a new challenge to raise even more funds later this year.
Former England and Crystal palace midfielder Geoff Thomas has also been made an MBE for his work in raising funds for cancer treatment and research through the Geoff Thomas Foundation, having been diagnosed with leukaemia himself in 2003.
Women’s sport is well represented on the list, with Kelly Simmons – the Football Association’s director of the women’s professional game – getting an OBE, and England rugby union vice-captain Emily Scarratt made an MBE along with her national team head coach Simon Middleton.
Also in rugby union, there is an MBE for former Wales and British and Irish Lions forward Ryan Jones.
Former Olympians Jeanette Kwakye (athletics) and Melanie Marshall (swimming) are also honoured with MBEs, while former NBA basketball star Luol Deng, who settled in London after escaping a civil war in his native South Sudan, receives an OBE.
Those working to make sport a more diverse place are also well represented.
Rimla Akhtar, the co-founder of the Muslim Women In Sport Network, receives an OBE for services to equality and diversity in sport.
Leon Mann, founder of the Black Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMS) which aims to bring greater diversity to sports media, is made an MBE.
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