Arsenal and England football legend, Ian Wright OBE, has received the Freedom of the City of London at Guildhall today.
Recognised for his services to sport and London, Ian was nominated for the Freedom by the City of London Corporation’s Policy Chairman, Chris Hayward, and its Deputy Policy Chairman, Keith Bottomley.
Ian’s career began in Sunday league football while he was working as a plasterer. After a trial with Crystal Palace, he signed his first professional contract at 21. He would go on to score 90 goals for the club, two of which famously came in the 1990 FA Cup final.
Ian joined Arsenal in 1991 for £2.5 million which, at the time, was a club record fee. He scored on his debut in a League Cup tie before scoring a hat-trick in his first league game. Between 1991 and 1998, Ian scored 185 goals for Arsenal, becoming the club’s leading goal scorer in September 1997.
After leaving Arsenal, Ian played for West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Celtic, and Burnley – as well as playing for England in 33 matches. He has lifted the Premier League title, the FA Cup, and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and he won the Premier League golden boot in the 1991/92 season, his first at Arsenal.
Since retiring from football in 2000, Ian has firmly established himself as one of the most respected and knowledgeable football pundits in the UK, with regular slots on BBC, ITV, and Premier League TV.
A passionate advocate of women’s football, Ian champions equal access for girls in schools, supported the government review of women’s football, led by Karen Carney.
During the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, he delivered a powerful speech for “girls to be allowed to play football, just like boys”, making sure that there was a legacy to the top-level tournament.
In 2023, Ian was awarded an OBE for his services to football and charity work.
Ian Wright said:
“I only ever wanted to be a professional footballer, so being recognised for anything else is really strange, even now, 23 years after I retired.
“I’m humbled to be getting the Freedom of the City of London award. London is a city I love and one that I’m proud to represent.
“Thank you to all the people who have believed in me along the way. My family, my team, Steve Coppell, Mr Dein, George Graham, Arsene Wenger, Glenn Hoddle, David Rocastle, and of course, Mr Pigden. I hope that I can pass on some of their wisdom to all the young people I meet and work with.”
City of London Corporation Policy Chairman, Chris Hayward, said:
“Ian is a legend of the game, and it gives us great pleasure to recognise his unique sporting achievements with this special award.
“Ian continues to be admired and respected well beyond his old stomping ground around Arsenal and has made a huge contribution to football and the capital.”
City of London Corporation Deputy Policy Chairman, Keith Bottomley, said:
“We are delighted that Ian has been awarded the Freedom of the City – it is richly deserved and recognises his outstanding contributions to sport and London.
“He is an inspiration to millions and an exceptional role model for young people.”
One of the City of London’s ancient traditions, the Freedom is believed to have begun in 1237 and enabled recipients to carry out their trade.
As well as being nominated for, or applying for, the Freedom, it is also offered by the City of London Corporation to individuals as a way of paying tribute to their outstanding contribution to London or public life, or to celebrate a very significant achievement.
Recent high-profile recipients include singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran; LGBTQ+ activist and London Night Czar, Amy Lamé; former England football captain and Tottenham Hotspur striker, Harry Kane; and Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, who initiated and led the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.