For the first time in SJA history, the annual report is jointly presented. Andy Elliott and Janine Self agreed to become co-chairs last year in order to share the time-consuming role.
It needed a change to the constitution but, one year on, we feel that the decision to have two co-chairs has worked well. When commitments have dragged either of us away, the other has been able to take the tiller in what has been another busy 12 months. Ticking the gender equity box has been an unplanned bonus!
Some people have a perception the SJA is a slightly archaic organisation and this is a reputation we are very keen to shed. Another view is that that the SJA can be writer-centric, at the expense of photographers and broadcasters.
So we were delighted to welcome to the committee The Guardian’s highly-regarded Tom Jenkins to fly the flag for the snappers. He arrived as we found ourselves in the middle of a thefts epidemic of photographer equipment and concerns about working conditions at some stadia.
We also co-opted Leon Mann, founder of BCOMS, Telegraph head of sport Adam Sills, ConnectSport founder Simon Lansley, and Christian Radnedge on to the committee, all of whom bring different attributes to the party.
The SJA has a growing membership, across all areas of the industry, and we believe strongly in diversity and inclusion. We have added an area on the website with details about other organisations from the Equestrian Writers’ Association to Women in Football, Sports Media LGBT+ and BCOMS. We have forged stronger links with the Football Writers’ Association, as many of our members also belong to the FWA.
We co-hosted media receptions with the British Athletics Writers’ Association at both the Para-Athletics World Championships and World Athletics Championships in London.
As always, the blue riband events of the SJA year were the British Sports Awards and the British Sports Journalism Awards, both sponsored by our very good friends at The National Lottery. We were pleased to see history made when the members voted Paralympic wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft the 2017 Sportswoman of the Year – the first time a para-athlete has won one of our three top awards.
Hannah, receiving her award at the Pavilion at the Tower of London, summed it up perfectly as she told our magnificent master of ceremonies Jim Rosenthal: “You see yourself up there alongside sporting giants and think that’s nice.”
England’s women cricketers took our team vote for winning the World Cup while Chris Froome was the unanimous choice for sportsman.
The British Sports Journalism Awards, back at the Westminster Bridge Park Plaza, attracted a record entry. There was a welcome increase and wider broadcast entry, thanks to the gentle cajoling of chairmen of judges Philip Barker and Mike Ingham. Philip deserves a special mention for flying in from the winter Olympics in PyeongChang on the day to present one of the awards. Thanks too to Peter Jackson and David Ofield, chairman of writing and photographic judges respectively. We still need more women entrants though.
Mary Fitzhenry, our indefatigable awards sub-committee chair, played a vital report in persuading Canon to sponsor the photography awards and we were also delighted to welcome UEFA and European Rugby as partners for our rugby and football writer categories.
The racing day at York, sponsored by Ladbrokes, was a great success. Sadly our arrangement has ended and we are now looking for new partners so that we can provide a great-value day out for members, especially those north of Watford.
The last 12 months has seen the continuing overhaul of the website and the launch of fresh Facebook and Instagram accounts alongside our long-running Twitter account.
During the coming year, we hope to do more around membership – increase numbers; generate interest among and develop relationships with colleges and universities; and do more around diversity and attract more women, disabled members and further members from the BAME and LGBT communities. We also want to develop a new membership system to make it easy for members.
There is still a lot of work ahead.
Janine Self & Andy Elliott
April 25, 2018 – The Swan, Bayswater Road