Jeff Stelling ‘never dreamt of’ broadcasting career growing up on council estate

Sports presenter Jeff Stelling said he “could have never dreamt of” his decades-long career when he was a young boy growing up on a North East council estate.

The veteran broadcaster, who fronted Sky’s Soccer Saturday programme for 25 years before stepping down last year, was made an MBE on Wednesday for services to sport, broadcasting and charity at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Stelling said the honour, given by the Princess Royal, was “amazing, unexpected, thrilling and, on the day, nerve-racking”.

“You wouldn’t dream of anything like this – it is literally, it’s a cliche, beyond your wildest dreams.”

The 69-year-old broadcaster is also an ambassador to Prostate Cancer UK – for which he has helped raise more than £1.7 million – and said de-stigmatizing the disease was the “raison d’etre” of his charity work.

“With men, in particular, we all think we’re big and butch and strong.

“We don’t go to the doctors – and certainly not if it’s anything to do with something below the waist.

“So to try and change people’s view of that means a lot.”

Figures from Cancer Research UK estimate 12,000 lives are lost to prostate cancer in the UK each year.

Jeff Stelling to march from Wycombe to Wembley for Prostate Cancer UK – Adams Park
Stelling is an ambassador to Prostate Cancer UK (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“But I’ve been fortunate,” he added.

“I wasn’t a sportsman, I didn’t play sports, yet I’ve spent my life mingling with top sportsmen and a lot of them became close personal friends.

“Again, that’s something I could have never dreamt of.”

Others honoured at the ceremony included Chantal Bryan, who received an OBE for services to children with special educational needs.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Chantal Bryan taught her son Jonathan to read and write after his school chose not to (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“Being able to learn to read and write means that you can actually start to say anything you want, in your own words,” she told the PA news agency.

“We’ve had children who were able to say ‘I love you’ to their parents for the first time.

“We’ve got people with children who are saying they’ve been able to express all sorts of things that they couldn’t before.”

Her son, now 18, founded the charity Teach Us Too in 2018 and launched a petition to teach disabled children to read and write – which has garnered more than 875,000 signatures.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Helen Holtam was honoured after running origami classes for inmates at a Wiltshire prison (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

She told the PA news agency: “It’s a good use of their time, it’s therapeutic for them, and also they know it’s going to a good purpose.”

“There’s not enough (money) spent on prisoners and some of them live in very, very bad conditions as well,” she added.

The origami artworks, sold for between £3 and £4, have raised nearly £50,000 which goes towards good causes, including a charity which helps rehabilitate prisoners into society.

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