Keeping the SJA’s photographers in the picture

DAVID JACOBS chaired the photography judges for this year’s SJA British Sports Journalism Awards. Here, he summarises the work that went into choosing the winners

The arduous and time consuming job of judging the entries for the SJA British Sports Photography Awards, which were presented at The Brewery on Monday, was again done over two sessions.

The first session was a half-day of pre-judging, where an attempt was made to reduce down the folios and single picture categories. This was made extremely hard by the sheer nature of the highly competent, consistent and compelling content entered. But it was also clear at this point that there few outright winners.

The main judging was carried out over a full day with judges Neil Sullivan, sports picture editor at The Times, Eamonn McCabe and Mike King, both previous winners of the Sports Photographer of the Year award, and Simon Flavin Action Images’ picture editor.

The first category, in previous years considered as the easiest to judge, was Young Photographer. But with the age limit raised to 30, we were immediately looking at 11 exceptional folios, most of which were so good that the same photographers’ images were later seen close to or shortlisted in the “open” sports folio award. The winner was Andrew Matthews, of the Press Association.

The news picture of the year was won by Eddie Keogh of Reuters, for his shot of the wide-eyed Didier Drogba in last year’s Champions League semi-final. Here judge Neil Sullivan commented, “This well published image really stood out of the page.”

Then came specialist folio. While there was a unanimous winner, a special mention goes to Ady Kerry, whose hockey folio proved that an exceptional photographer can produce a worthy folio in this from a minority sport.

However, on the Toby Melville’s winning folio, McCabe said, “This exceptional folio has really excelled in bringing the competition on to a new level,”

Sports picture of the year went to Gareth Copley (Press Association), which was also a winner in the World Sports action photo, a “remarkable cricket picture catching the peak of the action”, commented Mike King. A special mention went to Bob Thomas, (Popperfoto) whose tubby park goalie was most humorous and deservedly got one of the biggest laughs of the night when shown to the 300-or-so guests at the Awards dinner.

Sports folio was another close category, where after reviewing each entry on numerous occasions, the judges ultimately found a winner with Scott Heavey (Action Images), whose folio was generally felt that “with its diverse range of photographs and techniques – a worthy winner”. Given his strong entries throughout the whole competition, it was Heavey, too, who was finally chosen as the Sports Photographer of the Year.

To see a selection of some of the leading entries in the SJA British Sports Photography Awards, click here.

To see a selection of pictures from the Awards dinner click here.

View Sky Sports’ “coverage” of the photography awards here.

For a report on the evening and the full list of winners, click here

□ Sky Bet is the SJA’s newest partner, the sponsorship being announced in October 2008.

Together with the SJA’s other lead sponsor, UK Sport, both partners support our two prestigious annual awards events, including the Sky Bet sports betting writer of the year at the SJA’s British Sports Journalism Awards.

SJA dates for your diaries

Wed Mar 17: SJA Sporting Lunch with triathlon world champion Alistair Brownlee. Two-course lunch plus a glass of wine of beer, £20 for SJA members, £25 for non-members. To book, contact Mary Fitzhenry or by phone on 020 8946 9601 or 07946 545084 (please indicate whether a vegetarian meal is required).

Mon Apr 12: A Question of Boris:The SJA’s second “Sporting Question Time”, this time with London Mayor Boris Johnson at City Hall. This will be strictly for SJA members only. To book your ticket, click here to send us an email with your name, SJA membership number and address, writing “Sporting Question Time with Boris” in the subject field

Mon Apr 12: SJA Spring Golf Day , to be staged at Surbiton GC. To book, contact Paul Trow (07973 862747).

Thu Apr 15: SJA 2010 Annual Meeting , at offices of UK Sport

Mon Apr 19: SJA/LOCOG guided tour of Olympic Park, 2pm For booking details, click here.

Sun Apr 25: SJA Cricket Day. Enjoy corporate hospitality with friends and colleagues, and bring along your partner, as Lancashire take on Surrey. Tickets £65 each. Click here for booking details.

Mon Sep 13: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill GC. To book, contact Paul Trow (07973 862747).

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