Jonathan Rea lends support to BBC Unsung Hero Award

Motorcycle racer Jonathan Rea is supporting the BBC's Unsung Hero award

World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea is urging people to get involved in the race to find this year's BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero for Northern Ireland.

The Ballyclare rider, who is now based on the Isle of Man, is the 2015 Ambassador for BBC Sport NI's search to find this year's local winner of the award.

The Unsung Hero award honours individuals from the world of grassroots sport and recognises those who, on a voluntary basis, go the extra mile contributing to sport in their local community.

The Northern Ireland winner will be one of 15 regional winners from across the UK.

Awards night in Belfast

The overall recipient of the award will be announced during the BBC Sports Personality of The Year Awards which will be held in Belfast on Sunday 20 December.

Rea, 28, who securing the World Superbike Championship title on Sunday, identifies his own Unsung Hero for helping him during his career.

"For me it's my father, Johnny Rea, because he doesn't get the credit he deserves for the part he has played in my career to date.

"The amount of man hours going in to getting me to this didn't start when I suddenly arrive on TV.

"It started when I was three years old preparing my motocross bike every weekend. I think without the sacrifice he's had to make with both my younger brothers and sisters, my mother, I wouldn't be in this position without all that voluntary and heartfelt support."

Legions of volunteers

Jonathan also pays tribute to the legions of volunteers who work behind the scenes and the important part they play to make it possible for young people to realise their sporting dreams.

"In the road race world we have marshal volunteers, without them, we couldn't race in a weekend.

"We see sport at the top level but nobody sees grassroots, and grassroots is all volunteers. From when I grew up, schoolboy motocross, and the time keepers, the paddock organisers, the people who organise the races, they're volunteers. Whilst they don't get headlines in papers or minutes on the news they're the people that make sport really happen."

Making a difference

Running since 2003, the award recognises those who have make a difference to their local community through sport.

Nominees could be people who, on a voluntary basis, prepare facilities, roll the pitch, coach the juniors, run local sports leagues or work behind the scenes so that sport can be played and enjoyed by people throughout the UK. They just have to be someone you think deserves praise for their efforts as part of your team or sporting activity.

Nominations for this year's awards are now open and can be made by logging on to . You can also call 08000 680 949 to request that a nomination form is posted to you. Lines are open 24 hours and calls are free from landlines and mobiles.

Please note that the last day we will dispatch posted nomination forms will be Friday 16 October. The closing date for applications is 23:59 BST on Thursday 22 October. Once the nomination process has been completed, the Northern Ireland winner is selected by a local panel from a shortlist of nominees.

Jane Tohill, Executive Producer BBC Sport NI said:

"Volunteers form the backbone of many of our local sporting clubs and communities. BBC Sport NI's Unsung Hero award is a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on them - honouring and recognising the contribution and impact they make to people's lives through sport.

"We're hoping to get nominations from all our sporting traditions, and are looking forward to hosting the winner at this year's prestigious Sports Personality of the Year celebration in Belfast."

The Northern Ireland winner will be announced in November.