Dark side of sport dominates longlist for world’s richest sports book prize
Books which focus on the often brutal and corrupt dark side of sport – including one on the trial of the Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius, and another on the recent FIFA scandals – make up nearly one third of the longlist of the 27th William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. In A Man’s World: The Double Life of Emile Griffith, Donald McRae, who faces the possibility of a record third win, explores the boxer’s long career, the homophobia he faced and his struggle to come to terms with the death of an opponent following their last, terrible fight.
Those competing with McRae for the Award, the most prestigious of its kind, include: Heidi Blake & Jonathan Calvert’s The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup, which sheds new insight into the revelations that shook the football world to its core; Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire by Martin Fletcher, a survivor of the disaster that killed his father, brother, uncle and grandfather, and which was never properly explained; The Trials of Oscar Pistorius – Chase Your Shadow by John Carlin; and Journeymen: The Other Side of the Boxing Business by Mark Turley, which tells the story of the modern-day boxers who lose for a living, over and over again.
Bobsledding, Chess and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) feature on the William Hill longlist for the first time; Speed Kings, by Guardian sportswriter Andy Bull, tells the story of the disparate group of outsiders who became Olympic champions at the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics. In arguably the year’s most inspirational tale, A King in Hiding tells the story of the Bangladeshi child refugee who has, against all the odds, become a world chess champion in his new home of France. The undefeated UFC (Ultimate Fighting Champion) and Olympic judo medallist Ronda Rousey pulls no punches in her autobiography, My Fight/Your Fight.
Though the books on this year’s longlist cover eight different sports in total, titles about football are prevalent. As well as the Ugly Game and Fifty-Six, football is the subject of both Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager by Michael Calvin, and The Game of Our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football by David Goldblatt.
The longlist in full (alphabetically by author’s surname):
- The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert (Simon & Schuster)
- Speed Kings by Andy Bull (Bantam Press)
- Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager by Michael Calvin (Century)
- The Trials of Oscar Pistorius: Chase Your Shadow by John Carlin (Atlantic Books)
- Kings of the Road: A Journey into the Heart of British Cycling by Robert Dineen (Aurum Press)
- A King in Hiding: How a Child Refugee Became a World Chess Champion by Fahim, Sophie Le Callennec, Xavier Parmentier and Barbara Mellor (translator) (Icon)
- Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire by Martin Fletcher (Bloomsbury)
- The Game of Our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football by David Goldblatt (Viking)
- Runner: A Short Story About A Long Run by Lizzy Hawker (Aurum Press)
- Fire in Babylon by Simon Lister (Yellow Jersey)
- A Man’s World: The Double Life of Emile Griffith by Donald McRae (Simon & Schuster)
- The Bolt Supremacy by Richard Moore (Yellow Jersey)
- My Fight/Your Fight: The Official Ronda Rousey Autobiography by Ronda Rousey and Maria Burns Ortiz (Century)
- Journeymen: The Other Side of the Boxing Business by Mark Turley (Pitch)
William Hill Media Relations Director and co-founder of the Award, Graham Sharpe, said: “Never let it be said sportswriters shy away from difficult subjects. In this longlist, our authors shine their floodlights into many of sport’s dark corners, but also find inspirational tales of individual and team success. While football is the most written about subject, it is wonderful to see areas less widely covered - endurance running, bobsledding and chess, whose status as a sport may provoke some debate - included. These books deserve a wide audience – I hope their inclusion here helps them find it.”
The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize. As well as a £27,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet, a leather-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races.
The judging panel for this year’s Award consists of: retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the judging panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the Award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.
The shortlist will be announced on 27 October. The winner will be announced at an afternoon reception at BAFTA, in central London, on Thursday 26 November.
Notes to Editors
- This year’s prize was open to any full-length book, providing the subject was predominantly sporting, published for the first time in the UK between 29th September 2014 and 15th October 2015.
- Shortlisted authors will receive £3,000 cash, a leather-bound copy of their book, and a free £1,000 bet. Longlisted authors will receive a free £500 bet and a certificate.
- PREVIOUS WINNERS of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award:
2014 – Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport by Anna Krien
2013 – Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang by Jamie Reid
2012 – The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
2011 – A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng
2010 – Beware of the Dog: Rugby’s Hardman Reveals All by Brian Moore
2009 – Harold Larwood: The Authorized Biography of the World’s Fastest Bowler by Duncan Hamilton
2008 – Coming Back to Me: The Autobiography by Marcus Trescothick
2007 – Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton
2006 – Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey Ward
2005 – My Father and Other Working-Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach
2004 – Basil D'Oliveira: Cricket and Controversy by Peter Oborne
2003 – Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football by Tom Bower
2002 – In Black and White: The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens by Donald McRae
2001 – Seabiscuit: The True Story of Three Men and a Racehorse by Laura Hillenbrand
2000 – It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong
1999 – A Social History of English Cricket by Derek Birley
1998 – Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police by Robert Twigger
1997 – A Lot of Hard Yakka: Triumph and Torment - A County Cricketer's Life by Simon Hughes
1996 – Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae
1995 – A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour by John Feinstein
1994 – Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper
1993 – Endless Winter: The Inside Story of the Rugby Revolution by Stephen Jones
1992 – Fever Pitch; A Fan’s Life by Nick Hornby
1991 – Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser
1990 – Rough Ride: An Insight Into Pro Cycling by Paul Kimmage
1989 – True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race Mutiny by Daniel Topolski and Patrick Robinson