THE search for amateur sporting stars and unsung heroes across East Lancashire is finally over as the shortlist for the first ever Grass Roots Heroes Awards are revealed.

The Lancashire Telegraph, together with United Utilities, have teamed up to recognise and reward those people who contribute so much to their communities through partici-pation in sport.

And after six months and hundreds of nominations, a shortlist for nine categories has been finalised – while there is still the chance to have your say in our People’s Choice award.

Kevin Young, editor of the Lancashire Telegraph, is delighted with the response.

He said: “Sport is so important to life in East Lancashire and I am delighted that they have been so well received and supported by the sporting community.

“The high standard of entries just goes to show how rich and diverse grass roots sport is in the area.”

Gaynor Murphy, the sustainability manager at United Utilities, helped draw up the shortlist and admitted it was a difficult task.

She said: “It was incredibly hard to draw up a shortlist with so many high quality entries.

"It is great to see local sport thriving in East Lancashire and I think the list we have come up with reflects just how strong it is.”

Senior Sports Personality

Jack Steff

Talented boxer who still has hopes of making the Great Britain team for London 2012. Has won the Golden Gloves and three national ABA titles at different age groups. Regarded as one of the best young middleweight fighters in the country.

Peter Jones

Superb masters swimmer who has competed in the World Championships, finishing just outside the medals. A multiple British champion and record holder. Ranked number one in the country in six events and has five top 10 world rankings.

Eric Knowles

Won the doubles title at the GB Lawn Tennis Veterans Championship for the fifth consecutive year. A member of Feniscowles Tennis Club, Eric has also won a national singles title. A former Lancashire captain and a LTA councillor.

Junior Sports Personality

George Hutchings

Won the Lancashire singles and doubles tennis titles for the second successive year. Played up an age group in the North of England Championships and narrowly lost in the final. Currently ranked number in county and is an LTA Matrix player.

Amy Stevens

Amy, aged 16, plays for Leeds Carnegie NTL Under 19s squad. Selected to represent England Under 17s and picked as captain – guiding the team to glory in the European Netball Championships. Has trialled for England Under 19s.

George Drinkwater

A talented young boxer who already has won a national title. Won the Golden Gloves aged 14 and crowned British champion at the Tri Nations. Impressive record includes last 10 wins against regional and national champions.

Lifetime Achievement

Harry Warburton

FINALLY hung up his referee's whistle after nearly 50 years as a football match official. Harry took charge in matches in football leagues across East Lancashire.

In 48 years as the man in the middle, Harry took charge of 3,633 games - and always polished his boots.

Iqbal Bhai

Iqbal has dedicated much of his life to grassroots sports for more than two decades. He set up Blackburn Utd in 1995, runs a 7-a-side football league he helped launch 25 years ago and also runs the Blackburn Midweek Cricket. Iqbal runs badminton and children’s leagues.

Alan Smith

Could be described as 'Mr Padiham FC' for the work he does at the club. Has a hand in everything; from club secretary, washing the kits, making the tea and mowing the pitch. A keen supporter of local football and always makes sure ground is available for cup finals.

Coach of the Year

Brian Roche

Has helped produce a string of regional and national boxing champs at Roche Boxing Club. Coaches young fighters six days a week and is a real mentor to them.

Iain Taylor

Helped Burnley Tennis Club achieve Beacon Status. Works with schools in the area which has resulted in children taking part in coach-ing programmes. A real inspiration.

Brian Foley

Regarded as one of the best junior rugby league coaches around. Coaches at Burnley and Pendle RL and helped guide Blacko Primary School to Lancashire Tag Rugby title.

Unsung Hero Award

Neill Caville

Has served Darwen Rangers as coach, committee member and general manager. Fulfils many other roles and has taken part in courses to help improve club. Forged links with schools and runs a successful primary schools tournament.

Steve Frost

Has helped build Wilpshire Wanderers up from scratch to what is now a thriving junior football club. Has worked to help achieve fund-ing and grants for the club and played key role in achieving FA Charter Mark Status.

Mark Snowden

Runs the darts and dominoes league virtually single-handedly – and turned it around from the brink of closure. Compiles fixtures, organises events, presentation evenings and keeps the website bang up to date.

Senior Team of the Year

Padiham FC Ladies

Team was formed in 2004 and was one of the founder members of the Lancashire FA Under 15s Girls League. Managed by Gary Mills, the team has since progressed up through the age groups. Were LFA Women’s County League Division Two runners-up in 2009 in 2006 and in 2010-11 season won the First Division title to gain promotion to the North West Women’s Regional League.

Knuzden FC Seniors

An unusual feat in the fact the majority of the team had been together for 20 years, coming up through the junior ranks to senior football. Played together at Knuzden Juniors - under manager and club founder Dusty Miller - and the Knuzden Youth. The team stuck together, winning many junior cups and titles. As an adult team, they have won the Blackburn Combination league title.

Witton Warriors

Hockey team went on an incredibly unbeaten run that stretched from April 2009 and March 2011 which included two back to back promotions. Club was only formed in 2007 by a group of players looking to player regular hockey. The club is now in Central Lancs League Division One and after a cup final defeat last season, finally managed to complete the league and cup double.

Junior team of the Year

SP Dynamo’s FC Under 15s

The team won every single game in the Accrington and District League. They also won every game in the cup - beating teams from the higher division along the way - to clinch the double. Scored a total of 176 goals and conceded just four. Played football the right way by winning the league’s fair play award. Also won the gold boot and the manager of the year award.

Rishton United Under 16s

A football team that has come on in leaps and bounds in last few seasons. Finished up as Division Two runners-up in the Accrington and District Boys League to gain promotion. Went up to Division One with many people thinking they were looking for a season of consolidation. But surprised everyone clinching the league, winning every single game apart from the last one when title was won.

Mill Hill FC Under 13s

Incredible record of having never lost a a game since stepping up to 11-a-side football. The Blackburn team have won consecutive league and cup doubles and also lifting the LFA Youth Cup in both of those years. Were crowned Northern champions and only lost in the national final the south of England and Derby County’s Pride Park on penalties.

Community Club of the Year

Hyndburn Athletics Club

A real community club, small but has had its fair share of success. The club helps out in schools and community events with coaches and athletes giving up their time. The club provides coaching in all aspects of track, field and cross country. Supports school events such as Quadkids and Sportshall Athletics.

Clitheroe Cobras

Has more the 200 children attending weekly sessions during the cricket season. Cobras U11s have won the league and cup for the last eight years. It also has a talented girls team. Clubmark and Focus Club accredited, the club has 20 ECB qualified coaches and regularly take kids on trips to big cricket events.

Accrington Girls and Ladies FC

Founded as Accrington Girls Soccer Academy in 2002, it merged with Accrington Ladies three years later. The club has two senior ladies teams and girls U10s and U12s as well as the Acorns – a development group for players from five-years-old. Has forged links with schools and is a Charter Standard club.

People’s Choice

Burnley Miners Vets

A team brought together to take part in a national veterans football competition and ended up winning. The team included well know non-league players from around the area and they beat Essex Diamonds 4-2 at Rushden and Diamonds’ Nene Park.

Chloe Love

WON her first kickboxing gold medal at the age of eight-years-old and has since won nine consecutive British and World Championship titles up 2010. Chloe also spends countless hours each week coaching other members of Alf’s Blackbelt Academy.

Blacko Primary School Tag rugby

Took part in the Lancashire tag rugby tournament and were unbeaten all season. The team won the Burnley and Pendle championship and represented Lancashire in the county finals, beating Wyre 4-3 in the final.

Anne Ellwood

At the forefront of raising the profile of girls football. Helped set up Accrington Girls and Ladies FC and has been involved with football for more than 35 years from player to coach and administrator. Was the first woman in Lancs and to win a preliminary FA coaching badge.

Stan Heaton

Set up successful coaching system at Lowerhouse CC and many of the Lancashire League winning team of 2004 and 2011 came through that system. Coaches and manages the Burnley District cricket teams and runs the Lancashire League junior leagues.

Vote in the People's Choice award - click on the link below.