Entries now open for Sports Journalism Awards

A London Games photography category, a sports website award, and fewer restrictions on how many entries can be submitted. JON RYAN, chairman of the SJA’s sportswriting judges, outlines changes in our British Sports Journalism Awards

Jon Ryan, the former Sunday Telegraph sports editor, who is chairing the SJA sportswriting judges again this year
Jon Ryan, the former Sunday Telegraph and Mail on Sunday sports editor, who is chairing the SJA sportswriting judges again this year

2012 is going to be remembered as an extraordinary year in British sport and an exceptional year in British sports journalism.

Never have so many words been written, in print or online, to cover 12 months of scintillating and dramatic action – from Manchester City’s last-gasp Premier League victory; Wales’s inspired Grand Slam; Chelsea’s against the odds Champions League triumph; Bradley Wiggins’ historic Tour de France win; the breath-taking Frankel; a unique Ryder Cup comeback; and an unexpected by thoroughly deserved series victory for the England men’s cricket team in India.

And those are just seven events in a magnificent year, and we have not mentioned the awe-inspiring London Olympics and Paralympics.

It was a year when our journalists showed that they can put on one hell of a show with stunning pictures, breathtaking footage, reporting that restored pride to our press full of talent, enthusiasm and a genuine love of sport. Our radio teams brought the action with style and a thoroughness that meant we never missed a beat. Star writers and presenters reinforced their reputations and new names proved that the future is assured.

Now we have a chance to show off the journalism that had such a memorable year in the 2013 SJA British Sports Journalism Awards and fittingly this year there’s a new look aimed at reflecting the changing times of journalism.

No longer is there a limit to the number of entries – pity the judges – but we felt that the breadth and volume of sports journalism is now such that some worthy entries were being denied the chance to receive their due acclaim. This applies across the board, to the writing and the photography categories. We have, however, continued with the discounted entry fee for SJA members, and freelancers can pay a single fee to cover entries across a number of categories.

There is a new award – the Laureus Sports Website of the Year. We already acknowledge our Sports Newspaper of the Year, now we will recognise the best of the internet, applauding the talents and skills that go make a great website.

With our previous category, the Internet Sportswriter, we have observed a rapid rise in the number of entries from writers who work specifically for the internet. All of these entrants are welcome to, and encouraged, to enter the longer established categories – sports news, feature writer, whatever seems most appropriate. Good sports writing deserves to be acknowledged wherever it appears – our sources of news, comment and insight range far and wide and if the SJA is to remain a relevant and respected body, then we must honour relevant and respected writers, on whatever platform their work is first published.

The age limit on the Ian Wooldridge Award, for the Young Sportswriter of the Year has been reduced to 25 to reflect the number of talented young writers making their name.

Edward Whitaker, of the Racing Post, and The Times's Michael Atherton, the SJA Sports Photographer and Sportswriter of 2011. Who will win in 2012?
Edward Whitaker, of the Racing Post, and The Times‘s Michael Atherton, the SJA Sports Photographer and Sportswriter of 2011. Who will win in 2012?

Like the writing awards our photographic competition remains the pinnacle of the profession and we have no doubt that the standards this year will reflect the 12 months that have been the stuff that picture editors dream about. For this year only, there is an extra category, especially for photographs from the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Our Sports Broadcast Awards will once again be decided by a vote of SJA members – we will be announcing details of how to vote early in the New Year.

The outcome of all of our awards will be announced at our gala dinner at the Grand Connaught Rooms in central London on Monday, March 25 (not the date previously announced – we have had to make the change due to circumstances beyond our control).

There can no doubt that the task facing our judges will be tough, but they all recognise that they are playing a part in the most respected and highly valued sports journalism awards. Now it is over to you to make sure you stand a chance of being acknowledged as part of the great year that was 2012.

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