Arsenal’s former record goalscorer and the five-time FA Women’s Super League winner will be officially unveiled at the prestigious event this autumn, joining an esteemed list of recipients including Pelé, David Beckham, Arsène Wenger and most recently, England manager, Gareth Southgate and Lioness hero, Ellen White.
On accepting the award, Ian Wright said, “It’s an absolute honour to receive the 2023 Legends of Football award. To be recognised alongside some of the game’s greatest figures in the Legends of Football Hall of Fame, including my old boss, Arsène Wenger is unbelievable.
“Music has been so powerful for me throughout my life and career, and to see how Nordoff and Robbins use music to help people connect and communicate is truly special. I’m really looking forward to a great night of football, music and fundraising at Grosvenor House in October.”
On the announcement of her award, Emma Hayes said, ‘‘I’m thrilled to be recognised amongst some of the biggest names in the game and can’t wait to join the illustrious company in the Legends of Football Hall of Fame. I’m delighted to accept the award alongside a true footballing legend in the shape of Ian Wright and look forward to celebrating on the night.
“It’s an honour to be associated with such an amazing charity like Nordoff and Robbins, they play a hugely important role in improving the lives of people across society through music. Music therapy is such a creative way of communicating with people, and I hope any money raised through the event can continue to support the incredible progress that’s been made so far.’’
Described by Sir Alex Ferguson as “the best night in the football social calendar”, the Legends of Football event is an annual charity fundraising night, supported by the Premier League, in aid of music therapy charity, Nordoff and Robbins. The event has raised a staggering £8.5 million to date since 1997 when John Charles CBE was the first recipient.
Geoff Shreeves, Sky Sports presenter and Legends of Football chairman commented, ‘‘We’re delighted to be honouring Ian Wright and Emma Hayes, both fitting recipients of the 2023 Legends of Football award. As one of the greatest marksmen of his generation, Ian’s career was truly legendary. Prolific throughout England’s football pyramid, he took the path less trodden to become Arsenal’s greatest goalscorer, winning the Premier League and FA Cup twice as part of an unparalleled era of success at the club.
‘‘Emma’s Chelsea sides have been the standard bearers of women’s football in this country for the best part of a decade, with Emma at the forefront of their phenomenal success throughout. Her passion for the game knows no bounds and her influence on the sport in this country and across the world is seismic, with Emma’s ferocious work-rate and determination playing a huge part in making the women’s game what it is today. Hers and Ian’s induction into the Legends of Football Hall of Fame is thoroughly deserved and we’re delighted to have them both on board as ambassadors for Legends of Football and Nordoff and Robbins.’’
Having played amateur Sunday league and semi-professional football until the age of 21, Ian Wright signed his first professional contract with Crystal Palace just before his 22nd birthday in 1985. Over the next six years he went on to score 117 goals for The Eagles, making him the club’s record post-war goalscorer and third on the all-time list. In 2005, he was voted into the club’s Centenary XI and was named as Crystal Palace’s “Player of The Century”.
In September 1991, he signed for Arsenal for a club-record fee of £2.5m before going on to be the club’s top scorer for six seasons in a row. He played a major part in the club’s success during the 1990s, winning an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993, scoring in both the FA Cup Final itself and the replay against Sheffield Wednesday.
Under Legends of Football alumni, Arsène Wenger, Wright went on to win the league and cup double in the 97-98 season. On 13 September 1997, he broke Cliff Bastin’s club record of 178 to become Arsenal’s all-time top scorer with a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers.
Wright represented England on 33 occasions after making his debut in February 1991 in a 2-0 victory over Cameroon at Wembley before making his final England appearance against Czech Republic in 1998. Wright went on to help England qualify for the 1998 World Cup by scoring two goals in the 4–0 qualifying campaign victory against Moldova at Wembley in September 1997, before producing arguably his best performance for his country in the vital 0–0 draw in Italy, a month later, which secured his country’s passage through to the finals. Shortly after his retirement from playing in 2000, Wright was awarded an MBE for his services to football.
A career ending injury at the age of 17 put a halt on Emma Hayes’ promising playing career, leading her to undertake European Studies, Spanish, and Sociology at Liverpool Hope college and later complete a master’s degree in Intelligence and International Affairs.
Emma went on to manage in the US before taking on the Chelsea FC Women’s job in 2012, before winning the Women’s Super League title in 2015, the club’s first major title. In her 10-year tenure at the West London club, Hayes’ Chelsea side have dominated the Women’s Super League, winning the title in six of the last eight seasons as part of 13 trophies won since she joined Chelsea, including a domestic treble in 2020-21.
Hayes’ side were one game away from an unprecedented quadruple as she guided The Blues to the 2021 UEFA Women’s Champions League Final, becoming only the second English team to reach the showpiece final. Last summer, at Buckingham Palace, she received an OBE from Prince William, Prince of Wales for her services to football and also won The Best FIFA Women’s Coach Award for 2021.
Sandra Schembri, CEO, Nordoff and Robbins, said: “Music and sport go hand in hand, and we can’t wait to be back at Grosvenor House for this year’s Legends of Football ceremony, with Ian Wright and Emma Hayes as our incredibly worthy recipients. On behalf of Nordoff and Robbins, I’d like to thank Ian, Emma and everyone involved in the event for their hard work and dedication – every penny raised goes directly towards our music therapy delivery, helping us to create space for people to express themselves and connect with others through the power of music.”
Legends of Football will honour Ian Wright and Emma Hayes at a star-studded event on 2nd October 2023 at Grosvenor House, London. Packages start from £5,500 + VAT and can be purchased now.