High standards set by short-listed awards entries

TOM CLARKE, the chairman of the SJA’s sports writing judges, reveals the short-lists from which the winners of the British Sports Journalism Awards will emerge at our gala dinner on March 24

Whose names will be on the SJA trophies when they come to be presented on March 24?
Whose names will be on the SJA trophies when they come to be presented on March 24?

Forget for a moment the culling of national newspaper sports staffs and the closure of so many regional and local papers with the loss of opportunities for young people to clamber on to the first rung of the ladder of journalism, for I have good news . . .

The standard of sports journalism, whether it’s in the nationals or the regionals or online, is excitingly high.

That is the only conclusion I – and, I imagine, most of the judges – can draw from the entries for the SJA’s British Sports Journalism Awards.

What has made the judging of the 2013 awards especially rewarding is that long-time stars of our trade are still in good form and that there is also a talented new generation of contenders – so there is the probability of several fresh faces appearing on the podium at the presentation dinner in London on March 24.

The number of entries was slightly down on 2012 – not surprising, as that was the marvellous year of the London Olympics – but there were still 189 contenders, including 44 in the sports feature writing category and 42 in the specialist sports writer category. That required the judges in each of those categories to be examining more than 200 pieces.

The judges included editors and sports editors past and present, current journalists and broadcasters, and a handful of sportspeople to give us a flavour of the views of the subjects we write about.

As Tony Adams, long-time captain of England and Arsenal, said when I invited him to join our panel: “Judging those that judge me – I am in!”

A former sports editor who was a judge in the feature writer class said: “I have been involved with the awards as an editor and judge for more than 20 years and I can’t recall ever seeing such quality in one category. There are many outstanding entries that haven’t even made the short-list. Anyone who is on it should immediately consider himself or herself ‘highly commended’.”

The same comment could be applied to most of the other categories.

Just as journalism in ink is shrinking, so journalism on screen is growing. As one judge in the website category put it: “This is the future. While many websites now offer audio and video content, the best sports sites also deliver outstanding written journalism.”

Finally, further evidence of my optimism . . . I spent a couple of hours last week with seven young would-be sports reporters on the journalism course at City University in London. Their eyes were just as bright as mine and their enthusiasm just as obvious as mine were half a century ago.

Journalism, however it’s presented, will not go away.

The writing category short-lists (all in alphabetical order) are:

Ladbrokes Sports Betting Writer

Chris Cook (The Guardian), Tim Dykes (Sports Wk), Kevin Pullein (Racing Post), Mark Langdon (Racing Post), Sam Walker (Racing Post), Greg Wood (The Guardian)


Huw Aaron (The Rugby Paper), Russel Herneman (Freelance), Kerber and Black (Daily Mirror), David Lyttleton (The Guardian), Nick Newman (Sunday Times), Julian Parry (Freelance)


Mike Atherton (The Times), Patrick Collins (Mail on Sunday), Matt Dickinson (The Times), Hugh McIlvanney (Sunday Times), Matthew Syed (The Times), David Walsh (Sunday Times).

Feature writer

Oliver Brown (Telegraph Media Group), John Gibson (NCJ Media), Paul Hayward (Telegraph Media Group), Jonathan Liew (Telegraph Media Group), Donald McRae (The Guardian), Matt Lawton (Daily Mail), Matthew Syed (The Times)

News reporter

Neil Ashton (Daily Mail), David Conn (The Guardian), Owen Gibson (The Guardian), Mark Ogden (Telegraph Media Group), Ben Rumsby (Telegraph Media Group), Martyn Ziegler (Press Association)

Regional writer

Jon Colman (Cumbrian Newspapers), Mark Douglas (NCJ Media), Chris Sumpter (Scunthorpe Telegraph), Mark Taylor (Cambridge News), Simon Walter (Southern Daily Echo), Chris Wathan (Media Wales)


Matt Lawton (Daily Mail) – “Lance Armstrong world exclusive – Cycling chiefs helped me to cheat”, Mark Ogden (Telegraph Media Group) – “Fergie Time? Sir Alex Ferguson considering time on United career”, Martha Kelner and Nick Harris (Mail on Sunday) – “Drugs, Bribery and the Cover-Up”, Pete Pattison (The Guardian) – “Revealed: exploitation of Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’”, James Riach (The Guardian) – “Sheikh Mohammed launches inquiry after police seize drugs from Dubai jet”, Holly Watt and Claire Newell (Telegraph Media Group) – “Match fixing hits British football”

Specialist correspondent

Mike Atherton (The Times), Neil Harman (The Times), Sean Ingle (The Guardian), Stephen Jones (Sunday Times), Derek Lawrenson (Daily Mail), Henry Winter (Telegraph Media Group)

The Ian Wooldridge Young Sports Writer

Adam Crafton (Daily Mail), Tom Farmery (The Times), Jack Pitt-Brooke (The Independent), Rajvir Rai (Daily Mail), Chris Tait (Freelance), Tim Wigmore (Freelance)

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  • The SJA Sports Writer of the Year is judged by the national newspaper and agency sports editors, and will be announced on the night of our awards, on Monday, March 24, at the dinner staged at the Grand Connaught Rooms.
  • Likewise, the SJA Sports Newspaper of the Year, which is judged by a panel of sports editors and other figures drawn from the media, sport and politics, will also be announced on the night.
  • Prizes in the SJA’s Sports Broadcasting categories are determined by a vote of the SJA’s members.
  • Shortlists for the SJA Sports Photography Awards will be announced next week.

Make sure you don’t miss out on the gala celebration of the best of British sports journalism by booking your ticket – or even a table – for the SJA British Sports Journalism Awards on Monday March 24 at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London’s Covent Garden.

The event begins at 6pm, with a champagne reception and opportunity to view an exhibition of many of the leading entries in the photography categories, prior to a three-course dinner and the presentation of the awards.

There are special ticket discounts available to paid-up SJA members. But hurry – tickets are already selling fast.


Mon Mar 24: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, Grand Connaught Rooms, London
Mon Apr 14: SJA Spring Golf Day: Croham Hurst GC, Surrey. Booking details to be announced

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