Daily Mirror sports writer Jacob Leeks wins inaugural award – by Jon Holmes, FWA national committee
An award to mark the football media industry’s contribution towards fighting anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the game has been made for the first time, and the winner is Jacob Leeks of the Daily Mirror.
February is LGBT+ History Month in the UK, and also the Month of Action for the long-running Football v Homophobia campaign.
Clubs from elite to grassroots, county FAs and organisations have been raising awareness of the importance of inclusion and the highlight of the month was a special event held at the National Football Museum in Manchester on February 24.
Over 150 people attended the fourth annual staging of the Football v Homophobia Awards, title sponsored this year by EE Hope United and hosted by BBC Radio Manchester commentator Mike Minay.
After two successive years of holding the ceremony online due to Covid lockdown restrictions, there was a party atmosphere – and Daily Mirror sports writer Jacob Leeks had extra reason to celebrate.
The 24-year-old was named winner in the Football Media category, newly introduced into the Awards for 2023 to recognise those in the industry who work respectfully and inclusively to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ people in the game.
Birmingham-based Leeks, an alumni of the Staffordshire University Sports Journalism degree course, added wide-ranging coverage of themes related to LGBTQ+ inclusion in football to his Mirror output in 2022.
He delivered interviews with campaigning fan groups; features on the GFSN Cup final in Dublin and the impact made by Blackpool trailblazer Jake Daniels; an in-depth exclusive on the Human Rights Watch research into what life is like for LGBTQ+ people living in World Cup host nation Qatar; as well as consistent news reporting, all on a mainstream media platform that reaches millions of fans worldwide.
Leeks’ coverage of the shift in approach by the Crown Prosecution Service to its handling reports of homophobic language and abuse was particularly commended by the judging panel.
The award presentation was made by Soccer Saturday reporter Mark McAdam of Sky Sports, who sponsored the category.
Sky Sports is also part of the FWA’s partnership family alongside industry group Sports Media LGBT+, which helped to organise the FvH Awards.
The group has grown to over 60 core members from across the sports media and related industries. It welcomes enquiries from all LGBTQ+ people and active allies interested in collaborative opportunities and helping to make football more inclusive through storytelling, content and communications.
In addition, Sports Media LGBT+ operates the LGBTQ+ Professionals in Football Collective which launched in June 2022 as a network group for those working in the game in professional or semi-pro roles. Members include current and retired players, managers and coaches, referees and match officials, administrators and player care consultants.