Atherton leads Times to six of the best at SJA Awards

Michael Atherton: SJA Sports Writer of the Year for a second time

Michael Atherton led The Times to six top prizes at the SJA’s British Sports Journalism Awards, with The Thunderer taking the SJA/Laureus Sports Newspaper title for the second successive year,¬† while their cricket correspondent was named Sports Writer of the Year for a second time, as well as taking the prize for Specialist Correspondent.

The SJA Sports Photographer of the Year saw another past champion, the Racing Post‘s Edward Whitaker, reclaim the Ed Lacy Trophy that he had previously won in 2008.

The Times‘s winners came from across the board, with Matthew Syed winning Sports Feature Writer for a second year, Mark Souster’s exclusives on England’s Rugby World Cup reports taking Sports Scoop of the Year, and last year’s winner, Ed Hawkins, taking again the SJA/BetVictor Sports Betting Writer prize.

The judges for the Sports Writer of the Year were drawn from a panel of national sports editors and other senior media figures, and more than 30 sports journalists figured in their voting. But cream rises to the top, and the judges selected the same top three as 12 months ago, with the Daily Mail‘s Martin Samuel and Paul Hayward, now with the Telegraph, both highly commended.

Atherton, who was previously named Sports Writer of the Year for 2009, did not have matters all his own way, however, as the busy former England cricket captain was only among the runners-up when it came to SJA members’ voting for the Sports Broadcaster of the Year, which was won by BBC 5Live’s Mark Pougatch by a narrow margin from the BBC’s F1 frontman, Jake Humphrey.

Other outstanding winners on the night were The Guardian‘s interviewer Donald McRae, declared Sports Interviewer for a third consecutive year; Jon Colman, from Cumbrian Newspapers, who regained the Regional Sports Writer title; and the Mirror‘s Ollie Holt, who regained the Columnist title he had won in 2008.

Emerging talent was recognised through two awards. The Telegraph‘s Jonathan Liew took the Young Sports Writer of the Year Award, which is named in honour of Ian Wooldridge, the co-winner of the Sports Writer of the Year prize when it was first awarded in 1976.

And 23-year-old Cambridge University under-graduate Michael Taylor was chosen as the winner from hundreds of entries for the first David Welch Student Sports Writer title, named in honour of the former Telegraph sports editor and stalwart organiser of the SJA Awards, who died last year.

John Sibley's Sports Picture of the Year, shows Heurelho Gomes's failed attempt to stop the ball crossing the line in Spurs's match at Chelsea last April

The power of photo-journalism was on display with freelancer Mark Robinson’s picture, published by The Sun, from the controversial Amir Khan fight last year, which shows the “mystery man” apparently interfering with the judging process during the world title bout.

Nick Harris’s work at won the Internet Sports Writer category – now the section with the biggest number of entries at the SJA Sports Journalism Awards – for a second year, while for the first time, a single documentary programme won the majority of members’ votes in the Radio Sports Programme category – Depression in Cricket on BBC 5Live, which was fronted by another former England cricket captain, Michael Vaughan.

But on a great night for Atherton, he also had a reasonable claim to a share of the Television Sports Programme, as Sky Sport’s coverage of Test cricket retained that title.

Further reports, photographs and even video from the night’s events will be posted on in the coming days.

Here is a full list of winners of the 2011 SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, as presented in London tonight.

  • SJA/Laureus Sports Newspaper of the Year: The Times
  • SJA Sports Writer of the Year:¬†Michael Atherton (The Times). Highly commended: Martin Samuel (Daily Mail) Paul Hayward (Guardian and Observer).
  • SJA Sports Photographer of the Year: Edward Whitaker (Racing Post).
  • Sports Broadcaster (decided by a vote of SJA members): 1. Mark Pougatch (BBC 5Live); 2. Jake Humphrey (BBC television F1 coverage); 3. Mike Atherton (Sky Sports cricket)
  • Sports Feature Writer: Matthew Syed (The Times). Highly commended: Owen Slot (The Times), Donald McRae (The Guardian).
  • Sports Interviewer: Donald McRae (The Guardian). Highly commended: Owen Slot (The Times), Martin Samuel (Daily Mail).
  • Sports Scoop: Leaked document exposes England Rugby World Cup shame (Mark Souster, The Times). Highly commended: Paul Kelso (Daily Telegraph) and Martyn Ziegler (Press Association).
  • Sports News Reporter: Paul Kelso (Telegraph). Highly commended: Rob Beasley (The Sun), Martyn Ziegler (Press Association).
  • Specialist Correspondent: Michael Atherton (The Times). Mark Souster (The Times), Henry Winter (Telegraph).
  • Sports Columnist: Oliver Holt (Daily Mirror). Highly commended: Patrick Collins (Mail on Sunday), Michael Atherton (The Times).
  • Young Sports Writer: Jonathan Liew (Telegraph). Highly commended: Alex Kay (Daily Mail), Laura Williamson (Daily Mail).
  • Regional Sports Writer: Jon Colman (Cumbrian Newspapers). High commended: Richard Wilson (freelance), Amanda Little (Cumbrian Newspapers).
  • SJA/BetVictor Sports Betting Writer: Ed Hawkins (The Times). Highly commended: Steve Palmer (Racing Post), Simon Milham (freelance).
  • Cartoonist: Nick Newman (freelance). Highly commended: Andy Davey (freelance), Kerber & Black (Sunday Mirror).
  • Internet Sports Writer: Nick Harris ( Highly commended: Ben Dirs (, Matthew Christie (
  • Sports Picture: John Sibley (Action Images). Highly commended: Laurence Griffiths (Getty Images) and Andrew Cowie (Colorsport)
  • Sports News Picture: Mark Robinson (The Sun). Highly commended: Phil Noble (Reuters) and Mike Egerton (Press Association).
  • Sports Portfolio: Tom Jenkins (Guardian and Observer) – click here to view an online gallery of the winning portfolio. Highly commended: Clive Mason (Getty Images) and Phil Noble (Reuters).
  • Specialist Portfolio: Edward Whitaker (Racing Post). Highly commended: Philip Brown (Reuters) and David Davies (Press Association)
  • David Welch Student Sports Writer: Michael Taylor (aged 23, Cambridge University). Highly commended: Oliver Fletcher (20, Yale), Amy Lofthouse (19, Manchester)
  • Radio Sports Programme (selected by a vote of SJA members): 1, Depression in Cricket (BBC Radio) – click here to listen to the programme; 2, 5Live Sport (BBC Radio); 3, Fighting Talk (BBC 5Live)
  • Television Sports Programme (selected by a ballot of SJA members): 1, Test cricket (Sky Sports); 2, Open golf (BBC Sport); 3, The Truth About Drugs in Football (C4 Dispatches).
  • Doug Gardner Award for services to the SJA and sports journalism: John Samuel
  • For past winners of the SJA Sports Writer and SJA Sports Photographer awards, click here.
  • To view a selection of some of the other award-winning photographs entered in the SJA British Sports Photography Awards, click here.

Thanks: The SJA would like to thank our sponsors and partners, Laureus and BetVictor, and to all the judges who volunteered to work on the 2011 British Sports Journalism Awards.

The judging: The Sports Writer of the Year award was decided by a vote by the sports editors of national newspapers. The Sports Photographer of the Year was determined by the judging panel, based on the outstanding work they had viewed for the awards.

All broadcasting awards were voted for by SJA members from shortlists produced by a panel of experts.

In the sports writing categories, each was judged by a panel of up to six judges, drawn from a range of publications, all with extensive media experience. Each judge worked on his portfolio separate for the other judges, and no judge was given a category in which anyone from their own publication was entered.

The judges were instructed only to judge on the work put before them, according to the distinct requirements of the particular category, and not on reputations or any other consideration.


Mon Apr 16: SJA Spring Golf Day, Surbiton GC. Watch the SJA website for booking details.

Thu Apr 19: SJA Annual General Meeting, Fleet Street, 12.30pm. Click here for details.

Thu May 10: SJA Ladbrokes Lunch with former England cricket captain Alec Stewart. Booking details to be announced.