Arthur Bell Trophy and Spirit of Sport and Recreation Award 2023 winners crowned at Guildhall

Harvinder Kandola and The Duke of Edinburgh ()

Double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes and Warwickshire-based volunteer Harvinder ‘Babs’ Kandola have been recognised for their incredible service to sport and recreation at the Alliance’s 2023 Annual General Meeting.

The awards were presented by The Duke of Edinburgh in front of 150 guests at the City of London’s prestigious Guildhall.

Dame Kelly Holmes has inspired millions with her achievements on the track, and once retired, founded a registered charity to support young athletes and help the lives of young people facing disadvantage across the UK, making her a deserving winner of this year’s award.

After retiring from athletics in 2005, she was made an honorary colonel with the Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment and has also become a global motivational speaker, published five books, and has made a number of television appearances – including becoming a panellist on ITV’s Loose Women since 2022. She also held the role of president of Commonwealth Games England, to which she was appointed in 2009, succeeding Sir Chris Chataway.

One of Dame Kelly’s most significant achievements since retiring from athletics was to set up her own youth development charity, which involves former elite athletes passing on their skills and experience to young people facing adversity – helping them develop the positive behaviours they need to succeed in their lives. In 2021, the charity outlined its commitment to help 10,000 young people facing challenges arising from inequality over the following 10 years.

In a video message recorded ahead of the ceremony, Dame Kelly said:

“I’m so sorry I can’t be there to pick up the award that you have kindly bestowed on me and my charity.

“I set up the charity in 2008 because I truly believe that one person can make a huge difference to a young person’s life. In my case it was my PE teacher – she believed I could be whoever I wanted to be, and she gave me the encouragement and determination to follow my dream.

“I believe that sport and recreation and activity can make a big difference and have a huge impact on a young person and a community, because it gives you the tools to believe in yourself more – to try harder, to pick yourself up when things go wrong.”

The award was collected by Martin Talbot, Head of Operations at the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, who gave a passionate speech about the work of the Trust, and of Dame Kelly.

Martin Talbot and The Duke of Edinburgh at the 2023 AGM ()

Harvinder ‘Babs’ Kandola was also confirmed as the winner of this year’s Spirit of Sport and Recreation Award, having been involved in volunteering for over 35 years, and working in his community to ensure that young people have the opportunity to benefit from the power of sport and recreation.

Over the years, he has been involved in countless programmes and initiatives and in the 1980s they set up the town’s first Asian football club, Khalsa under-9s, which now fields sides from the ages of nine to 16. Babs arranges an annual charity cricket match, which honours Conrad Lewis – one of their youth footballers who was sadly killed in Afghanistan in 2011 – to financially support returning soldiers.

Realising that his skills set could transcend different sports, in 2014 Babs turned his attention to boxing – working alongside established coaches at a local club and secured his own England Boxing coaching badges. In 2019, he began the process of setting up the new Leamington Boxing Club and spent the summer refitting the new headquarters, with countless volunteer hours from the local community and tradespeople making the project possible.

Harvinder Kandola speaking at 2023 AGM ()

On accepting the award, Babs said:

“The backbone of this are the kids – they’re the ones that come through the door and do all the hard work. I get the nice bit, I get to stand here, but you know what they’re doing now? They’re cleaning the club and getting ready for tonight. The whole community is involved with our club.

“If you break down the word community, it’s a common unity. We should all stick together and look at all the good stuff that’s going on – that’s a great place to be.

“I really appreciate this, the whole club appreciates it. It means a lot, thank you.”