By Graham Sharpe

Sports Book Of The Year 2000

"The six short-listed books for the world's richest prize for
such tomes has just been announced. Amongst the contenders
for this year's 12th annual William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award
are authors from Australia, New Zealand, America, Holland
and there's a Brit in there too."

The winner will collect the biggest ever prize for a sporting book, of £10,000 plus a £1000 William Hill free bet and a specially commissioned, hand-bound copy of the book. The announcement about which book has won takes place in London on Monday, November 27. Brilliant Orange, a book about Dutch football, by David Winner, is published by Bloomsbury. It's Not About The Bike by Lance Armstrong, with Sally Jenkins, tells the life story of dual Tour de France winner Armstrong and is from Yellow Jersey Press.

Mystery Spinner by Gideon Haigh looks back at the life of one of the lesser known but hugely influential figures of Aussie cricket, Jack Iverson and is published by Aurum. Nigh Train by Nick Tosches (Hamish Hamilton) delves into the murky life of former World heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Peak Performance, sub-titled Business Lessons from the World's Top Sports Organizations is by Clive Gilson, Mike Pratt, Kevin Roberts and Ed Weymes, from Harper Collins. The Great Olympic Swindle by Andrew Jennings is an investigation into alleged financial skulduggeries, Published by Simon Schuster. Last year's winning book was A Social History of English Cricket by Sir Derek Birley. 

Often known as the Bookie Prize, the Award boasts a prestigious panel of Judges, overseen by Chairman, John Gaustad, proprietor of Sport Pages bookshop, who has been on board from the start. The judges are broadcaster and author Frances Edmonds; John Inverdale of BBC TV and 5 Live; Football 365's Danny Kelly, a well known broadcaster; former Welsh rugby union international Cliff Morgan and the Daily Mail's Ian Wooldridge.

As the founder of the Award I don't get a vote but I do get to sit in on the deliberations of the judging panel and I can assure you that they take their role very seriously, and the arguments and discussions are always, shall we say, a little on the heated side. Each judge invariably arrives prepared to battle to the bitter end to get their preferred book across the finish line. Yet at the end of the deliberations there is always unanimity amongst the judges that the most deserving book has prevailed.

Occasionally there is controversy in the media about the identity of the winning book - which is a tribute to the prestige of the Award itself. One national newspaper journalist who should have known better once launched a tirade towards the judges for failing to give the Award to a particular book on the basis of the number of copies it had sold compared with the book which did receive the accolade. He was entirely missing the point of the Award, which is not prejudiced against big selling books - after all, Fever Pitch is a previous winner - but does go out of its way to search out worthy titles which may not have received the full glare of media limelight by dint, perhaps of subject matter, but which offers an enthralling tale extremely well told.

We do not open a book on the outcome of the Award - imagine the accusations if a hotly fancied contender were to be beaten - but it is an odds-on shot that the sales of the eventual winner will increase dramatically and that the author will be widely feted - and deservedly so.

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