City sports boss 'overwhelmed' after being made OBE

Ian Thornton speaking at the annual general meeting at Carrow Road in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Boo

Ian Thornton speaking at the 2021 annual general meeting at Carrow Road in Norwich - Credit: Danielle Booden

A man who has dedicated his entire career to helping others through sport has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for 2022.

Ian Thornton, of Mundesley, has been made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to communities in East Anglia.

The chief executive of Norwich City Community Sports Foundation (CSF) has been involved with the charity - which uses the power of sport to support and drive inclusion - since he was just 14.

He initially joined the organisation on work experience.


Ian Thornton when he was head of football in the community in 2001 - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

He then joined on a part-time basis before enrolling full-time 1993, just before he turned 18.

On receiving news of his award, 47-year-old Mr Thornton said: "I was overwhelmed and really humbled to be recognised.

"I'm proud of all the achievements of the foundation and I really believe this recognition is because of the work we've all done together."

Norwich City Head Coach Dean Smith visit The Nest for the first time.

Norwich City head coach Dean Smith (left) visits The Nest for the first time alongside Ian Thornton - Credit: Norwich City

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During his tenure the foundation has seen phenomenal growth.

This includes the construction of Carrow Park and ‘The Nest’, a £6.4 million community facility in Horsford - "undoubtedly" his biggest achievement.

Thanks to this growth the foundation reaches thousands of people each year with 9,000 individuals benefitting from CSF programmes in 2021.

The official launch of Ormiston Venture Academy as an Norwich City Football Club Community Sports Fo

Ian Thornton at the official launch of Ormiston Venture Academy as an Norwich City Football Club Community Sports Foundation Hub site in 2015 - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

In the height of the pandemic Mr Thornton worked closely with the Norfolk Resilience Forum to help prepare and deliver food parcels and support healthcare staff.

This also included remote engagement work that aimed to tackle other challenges caused by lockdowns such as isolation and inactivity.

Mr Thornton added: "All of this has been a major passion - that's why I'm confused and surprised that this honour has come about.

(1 of 1) Ian Thornton Football In The Community Officer for Norwich City Football Club, with pupils

Ian Thornton with pupils at the John Grant School, Caister in 1999 - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

"I do this because I love what I do.

"The people make the foundation. Staff past and present, funders, trustees, volunteers, partners - they've all contributed so much for us to impact people's lives on behalf of Norwich City Football Club.

"Without them, we wouldn't have had this impact. This award is for the foundation, and I'm just the lucky person to accept it on its behalf."

Norfolk are under new management in 2010-11. From left - Ian Thornton (U18 Manager), Hayley Collison

Ian Thornton pictured in 2010 - Credit: Archant