The Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club’s Chair, who has been hailed as “the driving force” behind the sports club, has been named the BBC Sports Personality “Unsung Hero” for Yorkshire.
Des Smith, one of the founders and Chair of Sheffield Caribbean, has been recognised for his work with the local community, championing the Windrush generation and his commitment to equity and diversity around encouragement and participation in grassroots sports.
Des was pronounced the region’s winner on BBC Look North last night (4 Dec), after being presented with the award by one of the club’s most famous members – former England cricketer Devon Malcolm – who presented Des with the award during a ‘surprise’ visit to the club in Sheffield on Sunday (3 Dec).
Devon said: “Knowing Des as the person he is…he doesn’t expect anything. His nomination will be a surprise to him because he just does things lovingly from the goodness of his heart to support the community.”
Des, who is from Jamaica but now lives in Sheffield, said he was “surprised” to receive the award.
He said: “I’m thrilled, it’s a total surprise and this award is for everybody connected with the club, it really is. Thank you very much.”
In his nomination, Des was described as committed to helping others.
The avid cricketer said sports helped him integrate and learn about other cultures when he emigrated to the UK in 1966.
When the Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club was founded in 1965, it was for children from the West Indies to offer them an opportunity to socialise and play.
Des has been at the heart of the club’s journey to where it is now – seeing the community hub rise from providing a safe haven for a handful of young people to now supporting five cricket teams, eight junior football sides, while also catering for netball and hockey teams.
The ACE Programme is also delivered from the Sheffield Caribbean in partnership with the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation. ACE has achieved success in London, Birmingham, and Bristol amongst others and provides tailored environments for the development of cricketers from Black communities.
ACE incorporates talent spotting within schools, providing elite academy access and scholarships, as well as grassroots cricket initiatives. The programme currently works with four schools in Sheffield and has engaged with more than 200 young people each week. A big milestone in the city is that it has one of the highest number of girls taking part in ACE across the country, with more than 15, but this is just the beginning as there are aims to engage with more schools and cities across Yorkshire for the future.
While the club in Ecclesfield welcomes children from all backgrounds, Des said it also tried to attract those of Caribbean heritage.
Des said: “We have supported a lot of young people in the Black community…a lot of young people have started their journey in sport here at the club – whether that’s cricket or football – and other clubs have picked them up.
“If you look at most of the clubs in the city nowadays – most have Black players, once upon a time that didn’t exist. The club has not only supported the Black community – we support all cultures – we cater for everyone. It doesn’t matter where you come from – (we are) an open, welcome community.”
The overall winner of the BBC Unsung Hero award will be announced on the BBC Sports Personality programme, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
The ceremony will take place on 19 December on BBC One and iPlayer.