The Prime Minister has today, 7 January, recognised Steve Johnson, Everton in the Community’s Disability Manager, for promoting amputee football, with his award presented at Goodison Park during Saturday’s FA Cup win against Lincoln City.
In a personal letter to Steve, Prime Minister Theresa May said:
Born in Southport, Steve is a three-time World Cup-winning amputee footballer who has been the driving force behind the growth of the sport in the UK for over 30 years. Passionate about football from a young age, Steve continued to play after his leg was amputated following an accident at the age of 21, receiving 130 international caps for the England Amputee football team and was named World Amputee Footballer of the Year in 1999.
Steve has drawn on his experience as a player to lead the ‘England Amputee Football Association’, a charity which supports individuals with amputations of limb deficiencies to participate in playing football regardless of ability, age or gender. The charity runs an elite performance pathway to support players in reaching national level, as well as a national league of eight professional clubs across England, in which 100 players regularly participate. Steve is also actively involved in promoting the sport internationally and gaining sponsorship from corporate partners to fund the league.
Steve is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
Steve was officially presented with his ‘Points of Light’ award at half-time of Everton’s FA Cup tie against Lincoln City by Everton Football Club CEO, Denise Barrett-Baxendale, and Everton in the Community CEO, Richard Kenyon.
In addition to his work with the ‘England Amputee Football Association’, Steve has led the disability programme at Everton in the Community since 2003 and has shaped the programme into one of the most respected in Europe, providing football and physical activity opportunities for thousands of disabled children and adults each year.
“Your exceptional dedication to supporting the growth of amputee football in England, and internationally, is helping hundreds of people participate in sport. By drawing on experience from your remarkably successful career, you are serving as an outstanding role model for the game and providing invaluable leadership for the ‘English Amputee Football Association.”
Steve said: “It is a great honour to receive such a prestigious work in recognition of my voluntary work within amputee football. When I had my accident in 1985 I went from having the freedom to play football whenever and wherever I wanted to having no football opportunities and this was something I wanted to change.
“Being involved in football can, and has, changed people’s lives for the better and the work I have done with EAFA is about more than just playing sport; it’s about changing non-disabled people’s attitudes towards disabled people but more importantly, I’m passionate about empowering disabled people and supporting them to take an active part in everyday mainstream society.”
Everton Football Club CEO, Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, said: “Everyone associated with Everton Football Club and Everton in the Community are very proud of Steve and we are delighted that his tireless efforts with the England Amputee Football Association have been recognised by the Prime Minister. I have had the pleasure of working alongside Steve for many years and his passion, commitment and dedication to improving football and physical activity opportunities for disabled adults and children shines through in everything that he does.”
Everton in the Community CEO, Richard Kenyon, said: “Steve has been the Disability Manager of Everton in the Community for over 15 years and has used his own experiences to help shape the programme into one of the most respected in Europe – he has done this whilst also developing the ‘England Amputee Football Association’ and leading them to international recognition. He is a very worthy recipient of a ‘Points of Light’ award and we are very proud of his achievements.”
Steve is the 1091st winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA. Over 6,000 Points of Light have been awarded in the USA, and former Presidents have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK. There is a similar cross-party approach to the UK programme and MPs from different parties often present their constituents with their Points of Light awards.
Regardless of whether it’s a doctor restoring local monuments in her free time, a father teaching young people life skills, or a local musician giving a voice to lonely people, the Points of Light award honours shining examples of volunteering across the UK.