Another sporting night for Colman, with title No5

Fifa files
The Fifa Files secured the Investigative Sports Reporter award for The Sunday Times Insight team’s Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert

The SJA’s British Sports Journalism Awards, being presented at a gala dinner in London tonight, seek to recognise and celebrate excellence in our business each year. So for one individual to win one category more than once is a tough task.

And to win an award five times, and four years in succession as Cumbrian Newspapers’ Jon Colman managed tonight when he was named the SJA Regional Sports Writer for 2014, places his efforts on a different level altogether.

Been here before: Regional Sports Writer of the Year Jon Colman
Been here before: Regional Sports Writer of the Year Jon Colman

“How has no one managed to sign him up?” one sports editor of a national title asked as Colman made the by-now-familiar walk on to the stage to collect his trophy.

The SJA is eager to encourage journalists from all over the country and to provide support for our hard-working colleagues on the local weeklies, dailies and evening papers. The Awards organisers were delighted that entries in this category doubled for 2014. Thanks to generous sponsorship from BT Sport, all six short-listed entrants in the Regional Sports Writer category had their tickets to attend the awards dinner paid for them this year.

Doug Gillon, of The Herald in Glasgow, himself twice a past winner of this award, and Mark Douglas, from the Newcastle Chronicle and Journal were highly commended, as the judges praised Colman’s “exceptional quality of writing, his true and sincere feel for his patch, and an exclusive story and cricket interview of which any national title be proud”.

Excellence was to the fore, also, with the entry for the Investigative Sports Reporter Award, a new category this year which went to a duo whose work transferred from the back to the front pages, and has continued to dominate the news and sports agenda in this country and abroad. The judges praised Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert for their exhaustive Fifa Files report in the Sunday Times last June, “not just because of the work that went into the story but because of the impact it had, and continues to have”.  The judges said that Blake and Calvert’s work was “forensic, detailed and timely”.

Highly commended in this category were Owen Gibson, from The Guardian, and Nick Harris, of the Mail on Sunday, whose work on his own venture,, had already won a gong earlier in the evening in the Specialist Sport Website category.

There was another award for The Sunday Times, when their veteran rugby correspondent, Stephen Jones, became the first winner of the SJA’s Rugby Writer of the Year Award.

Heading off the double challenge from the Telegraph’s Mick Clearly and Steve James, who were both highly commended, the judges said that Jones “had submitted an exceptional entry. Fearless, opinionated, well-informed and apparently inexhaustible. He manages to deliver an enormous amount of high-quality work every Sunday.”

This shot from AFP's Adrian Dennis, taken at the velodrome at the Commonwealth Games, was part of his award-winning portfolio
This shot from AFP’s Adrian Dennis, taken at the velodrome at the Commonwealth Games, was part of his award-winning portfolio

The SJA British Sports Journalism Awards also recognise outstanding photography, and in the Sports Portfolio submitted by agency photographer Adrian Dennis, of AFP, they certainly found plenty of quality, as he saw off the challenges from Action Images’s Lee Smith and freelancer Ian McNichol.

And this year, the SJA called for entries from sports broadcasters for the first time, too. The Sports Broadcast Journalist of the Year – a category which was looking for outstanding reporting and commentary ability, rather than presenting work (which is covered by another category).

BBC Radio's Mike Costello: the judges praised his "fearless commentary"
BBC Radio’s Mike Costello: the judges praised his “fearless commentary”

In an impressive entry, which included highly commended awards for 2013’s Sports Broadcaster of the Year Alison Mitchell and the freelancer Ronald McIntosh, the judges found what they were looking for in BBC Radio’s boxing and athletics commentator, Mike Costello, who they described as “a fearless interviewer and excellent commentator”.

Costello’s reporting expertise, the judges said, his “use of language and passionate style are an object lesson to fellow broadcasters. Not afraid to air an opinion, this broadcaster has an ability to produce the right phrase in moments of high excitement…like ‘every win for Justin Gatlin is a stab through the heart of the sport’.”

The prize for the best Radio Sports Documentary also recognised new ground being broken, with what the broadcast judges said was a programme “which grew in stature, minute by minute. It tackled an extremely difficult subject with huge sensitivity and was brutally honest”, as they chose TalkSport’s Kick Off Mental Health.

Three other entries in the category were highly commended: BBC 5Live’s Rumble in the Jungle and Pendleton: Mind of a Cyclist, and BBC Radio Oxford’s 3:59.4.

The awards this year introduced an award, open for work on paper or on websites, which brought together in a section or supplement all the component parts of great sports journalism – writing, pictures, headlines, graphics, lay-out – in a single Best Special Package.

Highly commended were The Times for its For the Good of the Game and the Racing Post for their World Cup Betting Guide. The judges said that winners’ pull-out was “a well-researched, professionally written and brilliantly illustrated and presented guide to one of the highlights of the sporting calendar”, awarding the winner’s rosette to the Daily Mirror for its “irresistible” Cheltenham guide.

And just like Jon Colman, Paul Hayward is a past winner at the SJA awards, so it was no surprise when the Telegraph’s chief sports correspondent – the Sports Writer of the Year in 1996 and 2012 – emerged from one of  the toughest categories to take Sports Feature Writer of the Year, if somewhat surprisingly for the first time. Highly commended were David Walsh (Sunday Times) and Donald McRae (The Guardian).

  • Further reports from tonight’s SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, sponsored by BT Sport, will be published on through the evening, or you can follow proceedings on Twitter via the #SJA2014 hashtag or @SportSJA


Wed, Apr 1: BT Sport/SJA lunch with Olympic champion rower Andrew Triggs Hodge. Booking details here

Mon Apr 13: SJA Spring Golf Day, Wimbledon Park GC. Booking details here

Tue Apr 21: Young sports journalists social event, Covent Garden

Wed May 13: SJA York Races Day, sponsored by Ladbrokes, at the Dante Festival. Click here to book your places

Tue May 26: Young sports journalists social event, Covent Garden

Tue July 14: Young sports journalists social event, Covent Garden

Mon Sep 14: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill Golf Club